Existentialist Philosophy, Politics, & Theology with Paul Capetz

Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, Karl Barth, & Paul Tillich all make an appearance in this podcast.  So sit back and get ready for a nerd-filled fiesta!

Prof. Paul Capetz & Deacon Stephen Keating join Bo and I in the Homebrewed Christianity HQ in Redondo Beach on a rainy St. Patrick’s Day morning for a podcast.  We had a blast! You will enjoy this podcast…if you are into philosophy, history, political ranting, Tillich’s theology or existentialism hitting the pews then this is the podcast for you.

Paul is an amazing historical theologian, Presbyterian minister, my favorite Calvinist, and dear friend.  He was on the podcast for Calvin’s 500th birthday, joined John Cobb for our special 101st episode, and explained how a Calvinist gets pumped about Process Theology.

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24 comments
burl
burl

Correction It was Bracken and Clayton (and Cobb) in a great Q and A following their lectures on Emergence http://www.ctr4process.org/media/page2.shtml (4th down) Lively talk of the Many, the One, agency, society as a whole possessing creative subjectivity--not just an individual entity, panpsychism all the way down vs emergent subjectivity at a higher level, metaphysics as metaphor, multiple but congruent mataphysical systems needed for adequacy (nod to Goedel’s incompleteness theorem), and most importantly, at about 40 min., we get Bracken’s “Sola Decision!” that I recalled clearly. You’ll perhaps see why I thought it so insightful. Oh, kudos to the new upgrade to the Media heading under the Publications heading at ctr4process.

dmf
dmf

hey burl, to the degree that one is at home in G-od in say Kierkegaard and Luther I think that the things of this world grow dimmer to borrow a bit of a hymn, one's commitments are no longer to mortal ends/means and this carries over into Tillich who is not finally offering a kind of polytheism (not Heidegger) as all concerns/interests/passions are not ultimately equal to the task of delivering us and so finally only the One True Love is literally/objectively equal to the demands of life. This would be radically different for Whitehead who sees not just this world but really all of existence as being quite homey for us. There certainly is a kind of "democratic" spirit in Whitehead's work much as there is in Dewey and Royce, the beloved community writ large if you will.

burl
burl

It is better to have said: But as ANW said, as soon as the freely-acting private One acts, it next joins with and takes effect among the Many others in society. So, the One is not homeless for ANW; the One is always grounded within the Many. This gives justification for socialistic thinking.

burl
burl

dmf Would you think it fair to summarize something like: Guys like Luther and Kierkegaard spoke of the deep responsibility of an individual to the one God, but following the 'death of god' development in existentialism, the un-grounded individual was left Godless, and such a theologian as Tillich brings back God to us, but in a polytheistic form of our personal Ultimate Concern. I listened to the 'cast again, and in the last 5 min, where one's social responsibility versus their responsibility to themselves came up...I think this fits in very closely w/ Shaviro's talking on ANW's description of a public and a private aspect to an actual entity (also like monads). I recall ANW's Many and One fixation: The actuality/objectivity on an entity is its relationships with the Many just-past prehensible others in its umvelt - this would be the social, public aspect of an entity. Its private becoming via decision-making in the face of the many potential actions posed by the prehended data represents the personal responsibility to decide as One. But as ANW said, as soon as the freely-acting private One acts, it next takes effect among the Many others in society.

dmf
dmf

burl, via its experiential focus on existenz existentialism makes contingency central to human-being, un-grounding us if you will, or if you prefer rendering us homeless, the death of God being just one manifestation of this kind of event-uality and making all of our habitual ethical commitments/callings a bit ghostly as opposed to classically Transcendent.

burl
burl

As atonement for perhaps getting away from Dr. Capetz's discussion of existentialism, I wanted to remark that I must have been drilled on the personal responsibility/conscience/guilt talk from the Catholic pulpits pretty well. So well, that in my Phil 101 class back in '74, when existentialism was introduced via Kierkegaard's 'The crowd is the Untruth' essay, I was magnetically attracted and hooked on the profoundly responsible individual. But, as I was mentioning in my 1st comment above, this was very much a Christian ethic taught to followers from way back. So, it seems to me that, w/ the "novelty" of taking God out of the picture as in existential atheisism, what is so distinctive about existentialism?

burl
burl

GREAT find, dmf I find great consolation in seeing any of the few folk, like Shaviro, who read and write on Whitehead with the life force that I am sure ANW held, but alas, did not impart to his dense (though extremely precise) writing. I was enthralled w/ Shaviro (bad audio echo - hold left speaker to your ear away from right), he really gets ANW. His talk invoked Leibnitz monad images when he was discussing private and public aspects of reality. I had come to the thinking that the only experients in a rock were the small particles - ala David Griffin's panexperientialism with organizational duality with stones and tables and such being non-hierarchic societies of the particles. But Shaviro makes me think maybe the requisite relationality to form a specific rock provides a different umvelt, and hence a unique experience for, its particles. Something similar, I suppose, for, say, a human kidney: its society of cells is ordered differently from the liver, ans the 'something it is likeness' of the cells in either organ is different. Bo/Tripp: If you have any other HBC followers like me who are profoundly interested in animal experience, especially that of dogs, check out _On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals_ by Stephen H Webb, a theologian at Wabash. Maybe he could do a 'cast? Aside from ANW, very few theological speculators talk much about our experience of relating with other species. Today, ethologists are cornering the market, but they could use some theo/philo support.

dmf
dmf

hey burl/tripp thanks for the intro to Bracken I'll have to check him out, here is Whitehead scholar Steven Shaviro recently on the "consequences of panpsychism": http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/22351462

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

Thanks for the comment Burl. Glad you are enjoying the Process goodness. I like the connection back to Bracken's visit. Just thinking about him makes me want to listen again. I LOVE Bracken!

burl
burl

Hello HBC folk I’ve been a listener for a good long while as I’ve searched everywhere to feed my Whitehead addiction. Cleremont seems about the only place where interactive process talk is valued. Thanks for that! This was a good interview. Important ideas in plain English – nice, like it’s nice that you took the time to define ontology after using it. What occurs to me (from my way back when spiritual readings as a Catholic student and younger adult) there are a plethora of Christian existentials, like John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi. There is Bonhoeffer’s bravery, and Martin Luther’s ‘here I stand’ is priceless. Merton’s self-banishment in order to contemplate and so many more folk, also including Jewish thinkers as Maslow, Buber, and Frankl. When Paul talked about the profundity of ‘decision’ in existential thought, I was reminded of a Process and Faith Podcast where Fr. Bracken is conversing with David Griffin (I think) about the denoument of a concrescing actual occasion (the actual superjection), and he answers his own question of ‘what separates potential from actual?’ with one word – decision. All reality progresses via decisions of individual subjective acts. On the fascist talk in the ‘cast, can a liberal likewise have a crisis conversion to conservatism? Also, I think our dog kinfolk, with other animals as well, are aware of their potential to die. They don’t dwell on it, so perhaps they are better at dazine in the present than us.

Wayne Schroeder
Wayne Schroeder

You guys did well to pull out Paul on some good overall topics. I would really like to hear him again and give him more topics to develop, especially the authentic vs conformist living and worshiping,

Stephen
Stephen

Definitely 'Fear and Trembling' and 'Thus Spake Zarathustra.' I found 'The Courage to Be' a pretty difficult text, especially if you're new to philosophy and/or Tillich. A more readable book would be Tillich's 'Theology of Culture,' or Langdon Gilkey has a great introductory book on Tillich that is cleverly titled: 'Gilkey on Tillich.'

Brett Tilford
Brett Tilford

@Jono - You might checkout Fear and Trembling by Kierkegaard and The Courage to Be by Tillich. Two of their more famous works.

Jono Child
Jono Child

I absolutely loved this podcast. Listened to it twice. I am just beginning my journey into reading philosophy and am particularly interested in existentialism. Where is a good place to start with existentialism? I have access to really decent libraries so should be able to get hold of most things.

Jeremy
Jeremy

The question about the social existential via HR Neibuhr was really fascinating. I'm not sure who articulated the importance of assuming responsibility for ourselves (and how the existentialists point to us in that direction), but I really appreciated that. It made me think of Bonhoeffer's religion coming of age in Letters and Papers. One more thing that came to mind in regards to the question on responsibility and the death of God. Lacan is famous for reversing the statement by Dostoyevsky (if God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted) and claiming that without God, nothing is permitted. “If God doesn’t exist, the father says, then everything is permitted. Quite evidently, a naïve notion, for we analysts know full well that if God doesn’t exist, then nothing at all is permitted any longer. Neurotics prove that to us every day” (The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 128). As someone hailing from the psychoanalytic tradition, I wish there would have been something of a nod to Lacan and psychoanalytic thinking vis-a-vis existentialism. After all, Tillich discussed psychoanalysis in Theology of Culture, but that's probably for another day.

Travis Mamone
Travis Mamone

I did the whole existentialist thing in college. I was the kid hanging out by himself in the coffee shop writing about my crappy life in my journal. Who am I kidding? I still do that!

Bo Sanders
Bo Sanders like.author.displayName 1 Like

That's not existential. That's Emo ;)

dmf
dmf

@stephen, thanks for raising the issues of existentialism which are as timely as ever but much neglected, I was confused in the podcast by the idea that what these thinkers had in common was not a focus on existenz but a "mood", what is the mood that they all share?

Stephen
Stephen

Really enjoyed being a part of this. Paul is an incredible teacher. There were so many directions that we could have gone with the conversation, but I we really hit all the major points that we wanted to get to. Hopefully everyone gets a lot out of it and will be inspired to read some of these authors!

dmf
dmf

too bad the conversation moved away from Kierkegaard and the fear and trembling that comes with the leaps required of faith, if one doesn't understand how Jesus' way of being a savior was a radical departure from, and affront to, the expectations of the Jews to be returned to a state/Kingdom to live under, and in accordance with, Jewish law, or how St.Paul rejects not only these traditions/expectations but also rejects Greek/Roman civics (with its ties to reasoning) than I don't see how one is still in the radical realm/claims of existentialism as one finds in Caputo's work on the aporia of ethics and a hermeneutics of not-knowing who we are. The hegelian dream that we can manage to overcome our creaturely natures with our powers of understanding Reality, and the subsequent social engineering, is to miss why post-WWII the chastened Heidegger reminded Germany that only a God, and not a political/cultural movement, can save people from their all-too-human ways of being in the world.

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