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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Why Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1379  Wednesday, 6 June 2001

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Jun 2001 08:16:44 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1356 Re: Why Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 16:43:29 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1376 Re: Why Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 05 Jun 2001 08:16:44 -0700
Subject: 12.1356 Re: Why Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1356 Re: Why Shakespeare

I'd like to thank Gabriel Egan for his good-natured response to my
suggestion about religion and politics.

>Politics which tortures people to death does, I agree, approach religion
>in its deferral of gratification. The workers' paradise is much like the
>city of god in that extraordinary cruelty along the way towards it is
>excused in the name of the final outcome. Such aberrations aside,
>politics is primarily "of the finite", as Sartre put it: the next
>improvement in working conditions, the next monopoly broken up.
>Religion, however, is primarily concerned with patient acceptance of
>present and forthcoming misery in the name of the final outcome
>(Valhalla, nirvana, heaven).

This is true enough, but I'm not convinced that the source of evil is in
the deferral of gratification.  If you actually enjoy torturing people
to death, then you're not deferring your gratification at all, but
indulging it.  Sociopaths aren't made by their deferral of their own
gratification, but by a complete indifference to other people.

Secondly, the beauty of concepts like "the city of God" is that they
don't have to be realized at all in "the finite", as you put it, at
least not in principle.  Therefore, to borrow an unfortunate but
oft-repeated metaphor, there's no reason to break any eggs at all, since
no omelet will ever be made.  One only commits crimes because one has a
goal in "the finite".

This isn't, of course, to deny that religious institutions often have
subjected people to torture, still do in a lot of places, and probably
will again in the future.  Such institutions, though, are inevitably
defending their situation and that of their adherents in the finite.
Witchcraft, for instance, is seen as a threat to society, heresy is a
threat to the church as institution.  In other words, the grounds for
the torture (its excuse, its justification, and its expression) is
political, within the finite.

If, as Levinas claims, the distance between self and other is infinite,
then ethics is not "of the finite".  Neither would a truly radical
religion, concerned with the radical alteriority of God.

Cheers,
Se

 

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