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A Philosopher’s Salvation

Posted on 21 June 2020, 13:47

The word salvation is seldom met in a work of philosophy, but Luc Ferry, a celebrated French philosopher with a wide following and best-selling books to his credit, thinks he has found it—but not in the usual places. Can we learn from him something new, something we’ve missed that might be helpful in these trying times?

In A Brief History of Thought, he claims that we fear death mostly because death entails losing our precious loved ones, either because they die before us or we before them. Salvation is a means of removing this fear—I should note that he says nothing about going to God. How can such fear be quashed? He considers two contenders—the two best possible, as he sees it—before developing his own soteriology (or theory of salvation). The first of these comes from Greek Stoicism, the second from Christianity.

1. Stoicism. Let us see how Stoic salvation, as Ferry defines it, stacks up. The Stoic trains himself to accept whatever happens with graceful resignation. He or she has witnessed the misery that grief brings to a parent who loses a child and has taken steps to avoid it. But how? By not permitting himself to become attached. He practices the art of living fully in the present, refusing to grieve over the tragedies of the past or to hope for blessings in a future beyond his control. He accepts, even loves, the world as it is, as it presents itself to him moment by moment, whether for good or ill. As Ferry puts it, “the good life [for the Stoic] is a life stripped of both hopes and fears.” Grateful for whatever comes, he lives his life, in the words of the great Stoic sage Marcus Aurelius, “untroubled and dispensing kindness.” When death comes, eternity follows. In the words of Ferre, Stoics acknowledge that “we lose everything that constitutes our self-awareness and individuality,” but that is all right. For we become one with and immersed in God (Logos), like a water drop falling into the great ocean. Armed with such beliefs, death is no longer frightening. Salvation is secured.

2. Christianity. Ferry is not persuaded by Stoic doctrine, for there is no escaping the sad fact that we lose our loved ones forever at death. Does Christianity do a better job? Ferry writes, “Whereas the Stoics represent death as a transition from a personal to an impersonal state of existence without consciousness, the Christian version of salvation promises us nothing less than individual immortality”—not only that, but the individual’s “soul, his body, his face, his beloved voice—as long as he is saved by the grace of God.” This, for Ferry, is an idea that “is not easy to resist.” Believing in it would be as good as salvation can get.

But he rejects the Christian solution. “Religion,” he explains, “is the prime example of a non-philosophical quest for salvation—given its assumption of God and a need for faith—rather than by means of human reason.” In our age of science, in which all authority is questioned, the Christian model of salvation, he says, ceases to be credible “for anyone of a critical and informed disposition.” The philosopher Nietzsche, he tells us, took it upon himself to smash all the “fine ideals of politics, ethics, and religion.” Nietzsche viewed Christian salvation as a fable. So does Ferry.

3. The philosopher’s salvation. At the end of his book, Ferry gives us his view of salvation—typical of the living philosophers I have read and known personally. Bear in mind that salvation for him is a system of thought that succeeds like no other in removing the bleakness and heartache of losing to death the people we love. For Ferry no one survives death—death means extinction. But this bleak fact need not occupy too much of our attention.

“We can learn to live and love as adults,” he says, “even if this means thinking of death every day. Not out of morbidity, but to discover what needs doing, here and now, with those whom we love and whom we shall lose, unless they lose us first.” To do this, to realize salvation in this sense, “is the crowning achievement of a humanism released finally from the illusions of metaphysics and religion.”

I am not one to denigrate such a worldview if it helps a person deal with the death of a loved one. But there is no denying that it would be depressing if we could do no better, especially in these times when death lurks everywhere. I believe we can do better, not on the basis of authority, not on the basis of the Bible or any other ancient scripture, but of contemporary research on transcendental states of consciousness. Forty years of research have convinced me that our deceased loved ones are very much alive and that the pessimistic conclusions of contemporary philosophy overlook this vitally important evidence. It is essential that we redefine humanism in a way that leaves intact the basic optimism of the human spirit—something that Ferry’s “salvation” does not do.

Stafford Betty, Professor of Religious Studies, CSUB

Author of When Did You Ever Become Less by Dying? and Heaven and Hell Unveiled. Stafford’s latest novel, The Afterlife Therapist will be published by White Crow Books later in 2020.


Dear Stafford,

I had mentioned in a prior comment to this post how: “One great advantage to ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ as technical metaphors is that they give a ‘picture’ of how different ‘levels’ can, in a sense, be ‘telescoped’ on top of each other, such that different levels can occupy the same ‘space’, in a manner analogous to which various radio waves and other electromagnetic signals can occupy the same space and be ‘mutually penetrated’ while maintaining their distinctiveness and separation.”

I just came across the following remarkable passage from Louis Henderson’s “Strange Experiences”, excerpted in N. Riley Heagerty’s “The Hereafter” that perfectly describes an experience of this vibrational ‘telescoping’ of discarnate levels and is worth noting here in relation to my prior comments on the nature of vibration and frequency with respect to discarnate reality:

“You have prayed for this,” the guide said, “You are to pass on this experience to those who want to know. The way will be shown. The time is fast approaching on your plane, the earth-plane, when the importance of vibration will be better understood. Let me help you to see more clearly what I mean.” “Please do,” I implored. He smiled at my earnestness.
“Give me your hand.”
“I did so and as he touched mine, I felt a tremendous thrill pass through my whole being. The next moment, or perhaps it was the same second, I do not know, I saw my own room—the room I had thought so far away—the bedroom in my house in London. I felt myself tremble at the same moment I felt his hand tighten on my own. There stood my wardrobe, and the tall boy, the old oak cabinet, and under my feet was the faded blue carpet. Nearby was the window on which raindrops glittered, the brown silk curtains gleamed, and then, to my horror, I saw my own facelying on the pillow.
“Am I dead?” I asked in a whisper.
“Do you feel dead?” he replied.
“Of course not,” I replied. But I glanced back at the bed. My face looked as though I was in a deep and peaceful sleep.
Then the scene changed and we were back at the bend of this long roadway, in a far-off country, or so it seemed.
We did not move, and the scene changed again. This time I saw a light so bright that for the smallest part of a split-second perhaps, I thought I should not be able to see. Again, I felt an immense flow of love and I again beheld my bedroom—dimly—and also where we actually stood at the bend of the road. This occupied all the very same space!
Spirit shapes were passing through it all! Shapes passed through the walls as though they were not there, others I watched walked right through my sleeping body, and others passed right through us! It was as though we were not there! It was though all the spheres were in one place, occupying the same space. Those who were walking together appeared to be quite unconscious of the presence of others. For instance, a man and woman came towards us, the man walked through me as he was talking to the woman. They walked through the bedstead and through my sleeping body, and on through the walls of my bedroom. A man, bright, serene and deep in thought, passed through both of us!
Two women, walking in silence—I felt they were intensely happy and engrossed in the fact that they were together—came along the roadway that we had just traversed. On they came, passing through the walls as the two other beings had done, right through the settee, but they did not walk through us. Instead, they looked up at us and smiled as they slowly continued their walk.
I felt glad that we were substance to somebody!
“It’s all a matter of vibrations,” my spirit companion said.
“I do not yet understand,” I replied. “Forgive me for being so stupid. I must seem dull.”
“I quite understand, you are not dull. You are not yet in tune.”
“Think of space,” he went on. “Think of vast and unlimited space, seeming empty, quite devoid of anything. Know that the Great Spirit, or God, the Divine Eternal Spirit, wasted nothing when the Universe was created, the Universe of Spirit. The Spirit World and the physical world and both manifestations of the Great Spirit’s thought, they occupy the same space. It is a matter of different rates of Vibrations, and not different spaces. The substance of each world provides suitable environment for the life intended to occupy it. You know of the Material Universe, you are now learning about the Spiritual Universe, of which the physical Universe is part. I am trying to show you that space is not uninhabited—Space is the Spirit World.”
“All space?” I enquired breathlessly.
“You will see. The beings occupying space are given bodies suitable to the substance in which they live. We note how active are the tiny ants in their little world on the earth-plane, we note, too how active are the birds, also the fish, all the physical world is just as active. All matter is active. The atom contains many revolving bodies. Nothing is as solid or as empty as it appears. You have just witnessed that.”

Paul, Tue 21 Jul, 04:27

Dear Stafford,

It would be a worthwhile project to survey the literature to see what terms are employed to describe the distinction between various levels and how these terms shift over time.  I don’t recall having seen the pair ‘density’ and ‘translucence’ employed to distinguish between levels, but they certainly strike me as apt.  Speaking from memory, I have seen ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ (of course), ‘heavier’ and ‘lighter’, ‘denser’ (to describe earth vibrations in particular).  Many such terms are, I suspect, used as modifiers on ‘vibration’ rather than as independent descriptive terms, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find that ‘dense’ is used in both manners in the literature.  Such descriptors as ‘heavier’, ‘denser’, ‘thicker’, more ‘opaque’, and more ‘solid’ all seem to get at the nature of the ‘earthly’ level in comparison to discarnate levels.  Special attention ought to be paid to the distinction in such descriptors between the incarnate ‘earthly’ level and the lower discarnate levels, as they should be distinguishable from one another for all that they both differ from higher discarnate levels.

One great advantage to ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ as technical metaphors is that they give a ‘picture’ of how different ‘levels’ can, in a sense, be ‘telescoped’ on top of each other, such that different levels can occupy the same ‘space’, in a manner analogous to which various radio waves and other electromagnetic signals can occupy the same space and be ‘mutually penetrated’ while maintaining their distinctiveness and separation.  This also can be taken, it would seem to me, as akin to a dimensionality, such that when – as is only rarely encountered in the literature – one speaks of a ‘fourth dimension’ corresponding to these levels, one can conceive of that dimension as being ‘vibration’ or ‘frequency’, rather than as ‘space’ in our normal construal.  The technical metaphors of ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ are also much better than that of ‘space’, as one finds in the earliest writings of American Spiritualism, which posited Summerland as literally being ‘up there’ and thus subject to the ‘Yuri Gagarin rebuttal’ (regarding God) – we know what’s ‘up there’ and it isn’t Summerland.

There is another sense in which ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ must clearly be taken as imprecise metaphors for conventional physical ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’, as if this were not the case, it would suggest that if we could set up sufficiently high ‘vibrations’ through some suitable technical means we could break through to higher levels of being.  However, this is a dubious scientific project.  Nevertheless, the very ubiquity of ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ as descriptive terms in the literature suggests that they capture something of significance with regard to the ‘true’ nature of these levels.

Let me take another pass as to the true meaning of discarnate ‘vibration’, this taken from the blog of August Goforth, author of “The Risen”, a book only recently encountered: “Every person experiences an individualized transition, in-formed — or manifested — by their unique ‘fingerprint’ of vibration. This vibration is both qualitative and quantitative in continually varying amounts. In the Risen geographies, vibration is tantamount to aware consciousness — which is significantly different than that which August has called ‘conscious awareness.’ Rather than try to explain this in terrestrial terms, I ask that you just contemplate the different feelings that come with the different arrangement of these two words.” [; Sunday, April 14, 2013]

Two points stand out in this passage.  First, the mention of both qualitative and quantitative aspects to ‘vibration’.  Second that “vibration is tantamount to aware consciousness”.  This latter statement is perfectly in accord with the best testimony we have as to the nature of the discarnate levels.  To quote from myself in a comment to Michael Tymn’s immediately prior blog post: “What is, according to the best accounts we have, the nature of the vibrational ‘levels’ or ‘domains’ forming the extended reality of the afterlife?  Frederic Myers, in his posthumous work ‘The Road to Immortality’, repeatedly refers to the ‘ladder of consciousness’ and this is consistent with numerous other accounts.  The posthumous ‘levels’ or ‘domains’ are in consciousness and of consciousness.  They are certainly not ‘material’, whether subtle or no.”  Vibrations, then, must be understood not as ‘physical’ or even ‘metaphorically physical’, but rather as directly related to – for lack of an immediately better description – ‘quality of consciousness’.  This also explains well why ‘vibration’ is associated with posthumous sorting, for such sorting is also carried out – in the nature of things – on the basis and fundament of one’s ‘quality of consciousness’.  This perhaps sheds light also on that despised (by me, anyway) New Age endorsement to “raise one’s vibration”.  This might turn out to be more accurate than they know.

Of course, this leads to the dominating question – one which I also addressed at length in Michael Tymn’s immediately prior blog post – how is one to best engage in this improvement in ‘quality of consciousness’ or ‘raising of vibration’, to the betterment of one’s own soul and sorting?  Of course, your own book, “Heaven and Hell Unveiled”, goes into this very matter at some length [allow me here to warmly recommend it].  I did not have in mind, when I wrote the comments in Michael Tymn’s blog I reference above, the statement of Frances Banks you allude to in your ‘nifty fifty’, which appears “Testimony of Light”: “And there are three ways in which to carry it out here.  By self-judgment, and true assessment of experiences; by service to one’s fellows; and by aspiration.” (p.60) This is a summary worth committing to memory and reflecting upon frequently.  Another, related passage, from the same: “The vision is still with me, complete and satisfying; the hope of further teaching and progress.  I must make myself ready by continued service, as well as my facing myself and learning of my defects, ready for that transition to a sphere for which my whole soul yearns.” (p.75)

This is very beautiful and no doubt very sound.  I do wonder, however – and this is perfectly in keeping with vibration as “tantamount to aware consciousness” – whether it is truly an objective statement or is in some way colored by Frances Bank’s particular formative temperament and background as an Anglican nun.  If we consider matters in terms of the three ‘margas’, or paths, of Hinduism – karma-marga (the path of duty), bhakti-marga (the path of devotion) and jnana-marga (the path of knowledge, specifically “the use of meditation with concentration, preceded by a long and systematic ethical and contemplative training, to gain direct insight into one’s identity with Brahman”, or the Absolute) – Frances Bank’s statement is largely one of karma-marga (service) accompanied by bhakti-marga (aspiration).  There is little in the statement suggestive of jnana-marga.  In fairness, little in the discarnate-related literature speaks to this third path – which is very much a minority path even in this world – which is why The Green Book, extracted from Theon Wright’s “The Open Door” and discussed in detail by Michael Tymn’s blog two posts back, is so remarkable a document.

In further fairness to Frances Banks, for whom it is impossible not to have tremendous affection, are these late statements from “Testimony of Light”, which are entirely in keeping with those of the “Master” of The Green Book: “And more and more I become thankful for the Reality which, God be praised, was there beneath the skin, all the time. This is the Self which is now becoming more and more outstanding, more revealed, more substantial.” (p.124)  “This is the next step in progression, the stepping out of illusion into the consciousness of the functioning of the Higher Self, an emergence into a wider consciousness and an awareness of Spiritual Beings and of Forces from the All-Creative Mind of God. This is a gradual process and may take years (in earth consciousness of time) to fulfill. I feel as though I am starting on a Path of Light which leads upward and onward into Realms of unimaginable beauty and wonder and of which I have, as yet, but the faintest glimmer of comprehension.” (p.125)

This, too, is a means – perhaps the ‘best’ or ‘ultimate’ means – of ‘raising’ one’s “aware consciousness”, and thus one’s ‘vibration’ and concomitant ‘placement’.  In this regard, I might close this (long) comment by touching upon my own engagement with the general approach of jnana-marga in the context of a very recent I Ching consultation, in which I posed to the unknown Sage of the Book of Changes, “How may I raise my level of vibration or frequency, which discarnate accounts speak of?”  The reply of the coins was: Hexagram 8 (‘Seeking Union’) (zhi) Hexagram 53 (‘Gradual Progress’), where the ‘zhi’ between primary and relating hexagrams indicates a possessive, such that the meaning of the two may be expressed as “seeking union’s gradual progress,” a quite beautiful expression in its own right, indicative of one’s efforts to identify with awareness/being as such.  The changing lines, however, were even more pointed, the one (Line 6) speaking of “Seeking union with non-people,” itself potentially a negative indicator in a general reading, but here seeming to point to the striving to realize one’s identity with God/awareness/being (certainly ‘non-people’), and the other (Line 3) speaking of “Seeking union without a head”, also potentially a negative indicator in a general reading, but here seeming to point to recognizing the ultimate non-subjectivity of one´s egoity and the recognition of one´s awareness as God´s awareness, one´s being as God´s being.  “Without a head” is also a wonderful evocation of Douglas Harding’s ‘headless way’, as expressed in his classic “On Having No Head”.  In all, this reply struck me as a remarkably apropos confirmation of jnana-marga, conceived generally here, as a suitable means of attaining a ‘high vibration’.

Paul, Fri 3 Jul, 19:31

Paul, You are wise to challenge the use of “vibration” to distinguish one level of existence from another. I prefer the words “density” and its antonym “translucence” to distinguish the levels.

Stafford Betty, Thu 2 Jul, 23:14

Dear Stafford,

The following is a bit off-topic, for which I beg your indulgence.  In a bout of 5am insomnia this morning, I found myself reading your ‘nifty fifty’ summary that you have posted (and subsequently published) under the title “The World of Spirit According to Spiritualism” [].  This is quite evidently the fruit of many years of broad reading in the discarnate-related literature, as also similarly reflected in your published works on the topic, all of which I have found to be helpful, well-considered and balanced treatments.  I have studied the bibliographies and footnotes in your published works carefully and it is clear that we have read and value most of the same works as found in this literature.  I expect, although I have not written on the topic, that I have likely read as extensively as yourself in it (although, I expect, not as extensively as Michael Tymn has).

Following this literature, in your ‘nifty fifty’ and other works, you make mention of the ‘vibration’ associated with a given discarnate ‘level’, as well as the distinction between one’s ‘vibration’ while incarnate and that when discarnate.  This ‘talk’ of vibration in the literature is as near-universal in reference as any subtopic in that literature is, referenced at once by the most simple and most erudite of ostensibly communicating discarnates, while found in source materials of both older and newer provenance.  As a point of note, it appears that terms such as ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ are not found in the earliest literature.  I have not made a comprehensive study of the question, but neither of the two early ‘bibles’ of this literature - Allan Kardec’s “The Spirits’ Book” (1857) and William Stainton Moses’s “Spirit Teachings” (1883) – make mention of either term, as subsequently employed in the literature.

On the other hand, a notable contribution from a slightly later period, Elsa Barker’s “Letters from a Living Dead Man” (1914), does make use of the term, as when the discarnate Judge Hatch comments, “You must understand that the two worlds are composed of matter…moving at a different rate of vibration”.  I suspect the sudden appearance in the literature of this subsequently ubiquitous description, which – on the basis of my extremely limited survey – occurs between 1883 and 1914, is due to the invention and successful demonstration and deployment of wireless telegraphy in the late 1890s.  It might well be that the widespread general knowledge of ‘radio’ and ‘radio waves’ made possible the deployment, previously unused, of ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ as technical metaphors of description in discarnate communications.  However, this is surmise on my part.

As satisfying as the ‘technical metaphors’ of ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ might be, a point that is deeply frustrating is the lack of precise definition given to either term.  I have looked for such for many years with limited success.  In consequence, we have no idea what ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ really mean in a discarnate context, despite the sheer commonality of reference in the discarnate-related literature.  The best engagement with this question I have seen occurs in a long exchange, buried in Appendix B of George Meek’s “After We Die, What Then?” in which Meek, an accomplished engineer and inventor, puts this question to the discarnate research physicist W.F.G. Swann.  At the end, neither Meek, nor the reader, have a very clear notion of just what ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ are in a discarnate context, other than that they are not the same as what we mean by these terms here.  If a discarnate research physicist can’t get across to an incarnate engineer what ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ mean in a discarnate context, it is unlikely any other kind of attempt to do so might succeed to any notable degree.

Let me excerpt the nub of Swann’s reply:
Meek: We speak of the vibratory nature of all creation.  To identify vibratory rate, you and we speak of higher and lower frequencies.  Yet you and other communicators have told us that there is no time in your dimension.  Therefore this question: How can we discuss ‘frequency’ and ‘frequency stability’ without a time base?  The word frequency denotes cycles per unit time.  Yet you say you have no time in your dimension. How is it possible to discuss vibratory rates and frequencies independently of time?
Swann: We feel that there is a great deal of misunderstanding in this area.  Our lack of time relates to days, hours, minutes and seconds such as we know on the physical plane.  Our area of dimension is a ‘type of frequency’ in itself.  The vibrating energies here are those which comprise that which we are, vibrating energies which we are.  They even now comprise a portion of your own being but you will experience them more fully after you lay aside the physical body and lose the connection with your present etheric body and astral form and frequency.  So that is the nature of ‘dimension of being’ – that which is at a higher frequency. [and continuing] (p.118ff.)

Another manner in which the discussion of discarnate ‘vibration’ and ‘frequency’ quickly become opaque is in the context of the posthumous ‘sorting’, ‘placement’ or ‘assignment’ (this last taken from Robert Crookall’s “The Supreme Adventure”) of the newly discarnate soul, which is described as into a ‘domain’ characterized by a particular vibration, which might be said to be ‘resonant’ with the quality and character of one’s own being.  There are two immediate problems with this, however.  The first is that vibration, as we understand it, is an inherently scalar, unidimensional property.  However, the nature and quality of one’s soul is no such thing.  Looked at in one respect, one may be characterized by a variety of virtues and vices, of instances of wisdom and folly.  Looked at in another respect, one may consider the ‘person’ in terms of the classic typology of intellect, feeling and will, all of which may be developed and expressed differently.  In either respect, how can these many aspects be collapsed to a single measure?

You are constrained by the same limitation that I am constrained by – that inherent in the testimony of the literature as we have it.  Given this, I don’t expect you to necessarily have any better answers than I have to this key issue.  But perhaps you have seen something or thought something that might cast a clearer light?

Paul, Thu 2 Jul, 15:10

Dear Stafford,

You are very welcome.  I’ve appreciated your writings on discarnate reality for some years now.  To your statement, a matter of intellectual history worth pondering deeply is that, at the beginning of the Scientific Revolution, most of the leading scientists were Theists or, minimally, Deists, whereas today, most of the leading scientists are atheists.  What changed?  A contemporary scientist might argue that our increased scientific knowledge has driven this change in outlook.  But is this a defensible position?  Consider the following, which could readily be expanded upon.  In Darwin’s time, the basic unit of life – the cell – upon which the proposed mechanism of natural selection could have purchase to drive biological novelty was considered a kind of unstructured blob.  Today, science has revealed that the cell is something like a city in miniature with multiple, mutually interacting domains of sophisticated specialization.  Looking to physical cosmology, the Anthropic Principle speaks to the multiple physical constants that, were they minisculely different in value, could not give rise to a universe supportable of life as we know it.  Looking to consciousness, we know vastly more regarding the brain and its mapping to different types of conscious states, but are no closer in the slightest to understanding how consciousness could arise from matter, while the ruling assumption that mind is a ‘product’ of brain is no better an understanding that the ‘filter theory of consciousness’ that Myers proposed more than a hundred years ago.  So, in various important ways, contemporary science points more strongly to the insufficiency of Taylor’s “immanent closure” than an earlier science was capable of.  And yet, that same immanent closure has become more hegemonic, to the point where a distinguished, paid-up, suitably atheistic member of the modern intelligentsia could be, without hesitation or apology, metaphorically pilloried, as was the case with Thomas Nagel following the publication of “Mind and Cosmos”.  I will repeat again here what I wrote in a comment to Michael Tymn’s prior post, that “the Baconian methodological enterprise begets an epistemology, which in turn begets a metaphysics and that, in essence, we are faced with a methodological constraint elevated to the status of a metaphysical claim.”  That is why the Big Bang, as you sardonically and ironically observe, “couldn’t have been because a vastly intelligent and powerful Being set it in motion.”

Paul, Wed 1 Jul, 01:14

The most remarkable conclusion drawn from the mesmerizing picture you describe is that the Big Bang happened without any intelligent orchestration. However it happened, it couldn’t have been because a vastly intelligent and powerful Being set it in motion.

Thanks, Paul, for your comment.

Stafford Betty, Mon 29 Jun, 00:42

The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, in his masterful “A Secular Age”, has termed the worldview under which your author is confined the “closed immanent frame” and has traced in considerable detail the historical process of secularization that has led to a state such that “it [was] virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable.” (p.25) However, the acceptance of immanent closure, such that it appears obvious, natural or given, is based not so much upon careful argumentation as upon a general narrative or set of narratives. As Taylor has noted:

The narrative dimension is extremely important, because the force of [the immanent frame] comes less from the supposed detail of the argument (that science refutes religion, or that Christianity is incompatible with human rights), and much more from the general form of the narratives, to the effect that there was once a time when religion could flourish, but that this time is past. The plausibility structures of faith have collapsed, once and for all, irreversibly. … And the same kind of supposition is widespread today, now in favor of atheism, or materialism, relegating all forms of religion to an earlier era. In a certain sense, the original arguments on which this narrative rests cease to matter, so powerful is the sense created in certain milieux, that these old views just can’t be options for us. (p.590)

Commenting specifically on the dominance of a particularly constrictive or closed sense of the immanent frame within Western academia, he has further noted:

In general, we have here what Wittgenstein calls a “picture”, a background to our thinking, within whose terms it is carried on, but which is often largely unformulated, and to which we can frequently, just for this reason, imagine no alternative. As he once famously put it, “a picture held us captive.”... Our predicament in the modern West is, therefore, not only characterized by what I have called the immanent frame, which we all more or less share… It also consists of more specific pictures, the immanent frame as “spun” in ways of openness and closure, which are often dominant in certain milieux. This local dominance obviously strengthens their hold as pictures. The spin of closure which is hegemonic in the Academy is a case in point. (p.549)

The Catholic philosopher Edward Feser, in his “Scholastic Metaphysics”, in the course of reviewing the philosophic objections to scientism, has noted similarly:

Now if scientism faces such grave difficulties, why are so many intelligent people drawn to it? The answer—to paraphrase a remark made by Wittgenstein in another context—is that “a picture holds them captive.” Hypnotized by the unparalleled predictive and technological successes of modern science, they infer that scientism must be true, and that anything that follows from scientism—however fantastic or even seemingly incoherent—must also be true. (p.23)

Paul, Mon 22 Jun, 14:46

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