“God Talk, Pt. II” (Stanley Fish)

May 18, 2009

In today’s New York Times, author, professor and noted literary theorist Stanley Fish writes “God Talk, Part 2,” continuing a conversation begun in his earlier op-ed piece, “God Talk.”  He responds and dialogues with those who commented on his earlier piece, namely the representative sample of “95% of Times readers” who apparently don’t (or profess that they don’t) believe in God.

You can find the full text of the piece here, but here are some choice bits:

To bring all this abstraction back to the arguments made by my readers, there is no such thing as “common observation” or simply reporting the facts.  To be sure, there is observation and observation can indeed serve to support or challenge hypotheses.  But the act of observing can itself only take place within hypotheses (about the way the world is) that cannot be observation’s objects because it is within them that observation and reasoning occur.


If there is no thought without constraints (chains) and if the constraints cannot be the object of thought because they mark out the space in which thought will go on, what is noticed and perspicuous will always be a function of what cannot be noticed because it cannot be seen.  The theological formulation of this insight is well known: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11).

And finally:

So to sum up, the epistemological critique of religion — it is an inferior way of knowing — is the flip side of a naive and untenable positivism.  And the critique of religion’s content — it’s cotton-candy fluff — is the product of incredible ignorance.


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