Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Theology of money

The AUFS crowd recently had a nice book event discussing Laurel Schneider's Beyond Monotheism: A Theology of Multiplicity. Their next discussion will focus on Philip Goodchild's Theology of Money – and if you want to join in the conversation, SCM are currently offering a generous discount on the book.

26 Comments:

Shane said...

So here's the premise of Schneider's book: "If Queer/liberationist/feminist theology, then monotheism is false."

Suppose she's got a good case that those kinds of theology really do imply the falsity of monotheism. Let's grant that to her. She's still got to come up with a good argument that monotheism is actually false. Indeed, she's got to come up with an argument that we are much more sure of the truth of feminist theory than we are of the truth of monotheism. One man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens, as they say. So, any good argument for the truth of monotheism is also a good argument for the falsity of feminist theology.

Adam Kotsko said...

Shane, Have you read the book? Have you even read the book event? If so, you might need to review.

Shane said...

Hi Adam,

I did read the linked blog conversation about the book event, but not the book itself. Do I get Schneider's premise wrong--she is claiming that "feminist theology requires us to move beyond monotheism," no?

At any rate, my comment is not explicitly not an argument about whether Schneider's premise is correct, but rather simply observing that if Schneider is right, then any argument for monotheism is also an argument against feminist thought. I wouldn't think that is particularly controversial.

Of course, I think there are good arguments for the truth of monotheism, but I suspect the difficulty there is try to get good definitions that Schneider and I would both agree to. For instance, if she agrees that "God" = "the greatest conceivable being" and that "being greatest" means possessing all perfections, then there's a pretty straightforward argument to monotheism, but I presume she wants to reject precisely this kind of talk about perfections and greatness. So that's why I'm not arguing with her here, just noting a consequence of what people seemed to be reporting as her(?) view.

shane

Anthony Paul Smith said...

I hardly see how oneness and perfection are the same thing. Do you read anything past 1300?

Anthony Paul Smith said...

Thanks for link Ben.

Adam Kotsko said...

You're too clever by half, Shane. I don't think she's setting up the dependencies you are claiming here, not at all. I'm still confused about what you read or didn't read, too. Did you just read that one post (not very informative), or did you read the PDF compilation, or what? Whatever you read, you didn't read very attentively if that's what you walked away with.

Shane said...

@Adam,

I don't think I'm too clever by half: I don't even think I'm too clever by a fourth.


@Anthony,

I actually think the medieval talk about perfections can probably be given a perfectly sensible gloss. If I say that scrambled eggs are good but poached eggs are better, then I'm acknowledging a kind of scale of comparison exists by which I can judge their relative degrees of goodness. So a perfection is just the highest extreme of that comparative scale. There's still lots of questions you could have and objections to be answered, but it isn't a completely empty, obscure notion that medievalists cooked up.

At any rate, oneness and perfection aren't the same thing. I said there is a straightforward argument from a particular view about God (the so-called "perfect being theology") to monotheism. That argument goes like this: If a deity is a being than which none greater can be conceived, then a deity possesses all perfections. So suppose, for the sake of argument, that you have two different deities, A and B. Two things are different iff they differ in at least one property. So if A is different than B either (i) there must be some property B has that A lacks or (ii) vice versa. But if A is a god then it possesses all properties to a maximal degree (because that's what it means to have all perfections). So if (i) B has a property A lacks, then A doesn't really have all perfections, so A is not a deity after all, contrary to our supposition. Or, on the other hand (ii) if A has a property B lacks, then B cannot have all perfections and so B is not a god either. Hence, it is impossible for there to be more than one thing possesses all perfections, hence it is impossible for there to be more than one God.

That argument goes back at least to Aquinas, and maybe farther. (Wouldn't surprise me to find a version of it in Anselm, for instance.) But, as I said before, that argument depends on the interlocutor accepting the view that God is the greatest conceivable being, and I presume that Schneider doesn't accept that definition. (Her chapter on the ontological argument would be the place to look, I would imagine, for what she has to say about this issue.)

Anthony Paul Smith said...

Sigh. Yeah, thanks, I had totally forgotten Sophomore year philosophy of religion¡ Plus I'm an idiot so I had no idea what you were talking about¡

It is dealt with in the book. Which you would know. If you had read it. Instead of just saying shit.

Adam Kotsko said...

I was originally going to say "too clever by two-thirds" or something, but I didn't want to open myself to the same charge.

Hill said...

I confess, observing Shane and the AUFS crew talk to each other is awesome. If this thread could get up around 50 comments or so, it would be the best thing that has happened to me in weeks.

Anthony Paul Smith said...

Hill,

Not to shit on your jouissance but, come on man! You need to get out!

Hill said...

Tell me about it.

Jonathan Keith said...

So, in the interests of getting this thread up to the target 50 comments, let me point out a problem with Shane's proof. It may well be that two 'perfections' could be mutually exclusive, so that a being possessing both would be inconceivable. One could then conceive of two distinct beings than which none greater can be conceived, one possessing one of these mutually exclusive perfections, and the other possessing the other. :P

Adam Kotsko said...

Shane,

I didn't actually read your canned argument the first time, since -- like basically every other reader of this site -- I'm very familiar with proofs of the existence of God. Scanning it again in light of Jonathan's comment, though, I found a hidden treasure: you apparently think Schneider has a chapter on the ontological argument! She does not. That's kind of a big mistake to make, further increasing my impression that you're commenting in ignorance.

Hill said...

It lives!!!!!!

Anthony Paul Smith said...

We just want to make you happy, Hill. And the whole Christian third way thing above is just boring, especially because no one, especially Kim, ever responds in any seriousness to criticism of it.

Hill said...

Honestly, it's the discussions that skirt that line of going meta that are the best.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across an interesting book on this topic.

It is titled The Barbaric Heart: Faith Money & the Crisis of Nature. The author is Curtis White.

I find it a refreshing change to the usual Christian pieties.

Jonathan Keith said...

Another problem with Shane's proof - it implicitly assumes that all properties a being may possess can be assessed in terms of degree of perfection. But a being may have properties that are neither perfect nor imperfect - colour for example. Thus there could be two beings than which none greater can be conceived, yet they are not identical because one is blue, and the other red. :)

kim fabricius said...

You mean like Obama and Bush?

Anthony Paul Smith said...

Are you 17 Kim?

Jonathan Keith said...

A poor example Kim. Bush is, in some respects, imperfect.

Jonathan Keith said...

Actually, this line of reasoning could be used to finally prove that Kim Fabricius is in fact Ben Myers. A theologian than which none greater can be conceived lol.

Jonathan Keith said...

Actually, this line of reasoning could be used to finally prove that Kim Fabricius is in fact Ben Myers. A theologian than which none greater can be conceived lol.

Anthony Paul Smith said...

Thanks for link Ben.

Adam Kotsko said...

You're too clever by half, Shane. I don't think she's setting up the dependencies you are claiming here, not at all. I'm still confused about what you read or didn't read, too. Did you just read that one post (not very informative), or did you read the PDF compilation, or what? Whatever you read, you didn't read very attentively if that's what you walked away with.

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