Who's Keeping Score?
I have been actively searching the web since July, and I am still having difficulty seeing the forest for all those trees out there.
One surprise among many is the lack of scorekeepers. There are many catalogs of sites, but precious few commentaries that aim below the surface. For all the sound and fury, there must be some discernible trends. If so, they are not being well reported.
What I can say here is a highly speculative personally biased travelogue or web log.
In the 'end' it will come down to the gnostics vs. the agnostics. The gnostics will have all the momentum and will win hands down, but for the foreseeable future, the agnostics dominate. They remain the relatively silent majority, except when they are on a mission of deconstructing some gnostic's sacred cow.
In intellectual circles the dominant gnosticism is still materialism. Materialism has been brought down several pegs by the continued sniping of the postmodern agnostics, but now it is pretty much a standoff. I gather that the postmoderns go easy on the materialists because of their shared concern for a reactive resurgence of intellectual theism. Indeed, it has been noted that the philosophy ranks are being significantly infiltrated by junior faculty theists. If this is the case, these new kids on the block are wisely keeping a low profile. They are tending to their knitting, probably in the peripheral areas of ethics and the like. They are not ready for, and probably cannot even imagine a direct confrontation with the scientific-materialist establishment.
In the meantime, the materialists are being permitted what is likely to be their last hurrah: neurophilosophy. Neurophilosophy is mostly smoke with very little scientific or metaphysical substance, and so presents very little challenge for the skilled deconstructors. In neurophilosophy there is not much neuro- and even less philosophy, but it does make a good read for the armchair materialists. Along these lines, sociobiology presented more of a challenge to the agnostics, and that challenge has largely been met. Neurophilosophy is considered a relatively harmless spin-off.
Just from the last extended page I am picking up the notion that the principle challenge to materialism is now coming from the continent. The continental phenomenologists feel less inhibited by the fire breathing fundamentalists that inhabit these fair shores. They can talk about God without setting off a general intellectual alarum. Lines have not been drawn over there nearly to the extent they have been drawn here.
What we are also seeing is a continuation of the centuries old demarcation between British empiricism and French rationalism. There has been a lot back and forth, and strange bedfellows, but still the demarcation is there. The latest resurrection of this rationalism is in phenomenology and more recently in semiotics. These kinds of rationalism are seen as relatively harmless in Anglo-American circles because of their staunchly truncated, decapitated form. Atheistic rationalism is like a carriage without a horse, but this concoction goes back to the rabidly anti-clerical Philosophes of the French Enlightenment. Think Voltaire and Rousseau. Now it is relatively tolerant of only the most muted, existentialist elements of theism. Think Kierkegaard. And don't bother looking for froggy eschatologists.
So, is everything under control? Well, that can be hard to say.
Then there's 9/11. When someone throws a monkey wrench its hard to know the consequences. The allegedly underlying clash of civilizations is being reexamined on many levels, and I am sure that most of it is well below the surface of what one can discern on the Internet.
Certainly, the mutual line drawing among the gnostics has been exacerbated, but the folks to watch are the agnostics. Surely, postmodern pluralism is feeling more than a bit besieged by these developments and what it may perceive as gathering intellectual, cultural storm clouds. The postmoderns are the hot-house flowers of modern civilization. If the heat gets turned up even more, they are susceptible to wilting.
In times of trouble, messianic expectations rise. People may be less tolerant of intellectual cacophony. Coherence may move upmarket, uptown. Most folks will turn to their mainly prophetic traditions for coherence, but the locally visible global clashings will bring a few thoughtful ones to look beyond the traditions. It will take every ounce of web connection and amplification for the disparate thoughtful ones to find a higher coherence and bring it to the attention of the rest of us. It will be nip and tuck, but surely in the best possible world, the highest possible Gnosis will prevail in the end. Coherence is a mirage if it does not include that necessary reality. Our ultimate concerns will demand nothing less.
Or not. Or naught?
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