Keith Hart on Wed, 3 Dec 2008 15:46:24 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Pixxelpoint 2008 - For God's Sake! Essay


Thanks for this brilliant and timely essay. It provoked me to dig up
something I wrote a while back:

Modern knowledge, as organized by the universities, falls into three broad
classes: the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. This
is to say that the academic division of labor in our day is concerned with
nature, society and humanity, of which the first two are thought to be
governed by objective laws, but knowledge of the last requires the exercise
of subjectivity or critical judgment. Whereas nature and society may be
known by means of impersonal disciplines, human experience is communicated
between persons, between individual artists and their audiences. Nature and
humanity are represented conventionally through science and art, but the
best way of approaching society is moot, since social science is a recent
(and, in my view, failed) attempt to bring the methods of the natural
sciences to bear on a task that previously had fallen to religion. If
science is the commitment to know the world objectively and art the means of
expressing oneself subjectively, religion was and is a bridge between
subject and object, a way of making meaningful connection between something
inside oneself and the world outside.  For a time it seemed that science had
driven religion from the government of modern societies, but the search is
on now for new forms of religion capable of reconciling scientific laws with
personal experience.

Kant's cosmopolitan moral politics offer one vision of the course such a
religious renewal might take. It is not hard to find other candidates,
notably market fundamentalism and its likely replacement, ecothink.

Beyond this, I still think that Emile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of the
Religious Life (1912) is the most revolutionary text produced by the
founders of modern social theory, as revolutionary in its way as Rousseau's
Emile (1762). [In The Songlines (1987), Bruce Chatwin has a Catholic priest
ask after reading it, 'Who is this Durkheim, some kind of communist?]
Durkheim's basic idea is that religion helps us to bridge the gap between
what we know (everyday life) and what we don't know (death, natural
catastrophes, social revolutions) through ritual and belief.

I couldn't help reflect that the problem you identify is a particularly
European one and may be one aspect of our societies' decadence.


On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 5:25 PM, Domenico Quaranta <> wrote:

> Domenico Quaranta
> "God Always Uses the Latest Technology."

Prof. Keith Hart
135 rue du Faubourg Poissonniere
75009 Paris, France
Cell: +33684797365

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