A learned twaddler

I am into the thick of the final volume of my Kierkegaard reading project.  It looks like I may even finish ahead of schedule by a few days.  I already have an outline for my next reading plan as this one really seemed to focus my time and attention to accomplish an amount of reading I can’t imagine I would have been able to under ‘normal’ circumstances.  In any event part of the next reading project will include a stint in phenomenology.  I have for some time sensed a ‘call’ towards phenomenology.  If there is one thing I have learned about my style of critical engagement is that I can easily move into ‘poetic’ gestures or expressions.  I certainly don’t mean this comment to belittle the role of the poetic in communication only that for me it was a space I attempted to inhabit when I really did not know what I was talking about.  In communicating this way I hoped that the frills were distracting or persuasive enough to keep from further scrutiny.

My rudimentary view of phenomenology is of a process by which someone learns the simple task of description.  I don’t assume that description will be neutral of course only that a certain form of content can be developed and articulated that will provide a more decisive engagement and understanding of a given context or idea.  I am simply working at trying to be more specific and honest.  I think honesty does have potential currency to it, not in some heartfelt intention but in clarity.  When Kierkegaard responded to the real or imagined question ‘What do you want?’ in a local periodical he replied, ‘honesty’.  Much of his writings in his so-called ‘Attack on Christendom’ have to do with being honest about why Christianity exists as it does and how that relates to the text of the New Testament.

In The Book Adler Kierkegaard gives an aside with regards to how it often seems to easier for people to talk about immeasurably more complex topics than specific ones.  His sentiments reflect some of the motivation behind my own development.

A learned twaddler who at bottom knows nothing can seldom be got to deal with anything concrete; he does not talk of a particular dialogue of Plato, that is too little for him – also it might become apparent that he had not read it.  No, he talks about Plato as a whole, or even perhaps of Greek philosophy as a whole, but especially about the wisdom of the Indian and the Chinese.  This Greek philosophy as a whole, the profundity of Oriental philosophy as a whole, is the prodigiously great, the boundless, which advantageously hides his ignorance.  So also it is easier to talk about an alteration in the form of government that to discuss a very little concrete problem like sewing a pair of shoes; and the injustice towards the few capable men lies in the fact that by reason of the prodigious greatness of the problem they are apparently on a par with every Peer, who ‘also speaks out.’  So it is much easier for a dunce to criticize our Lord than to judge the handiwork of an apprentice in a shop. . . . But our Lord and his governance of the world is something so prodigiously great that in a certain giddy abstract sense the most foolish man takes part in gossiping about it as well as the wisest man, because no one understands it.

I am trying in my own way to be honest about what I know and what I do not know.  This is not about knowing completely but simply in how I can talk about specifics.  In this way much of the theology I currently touch on (and it is less and less these days) seems to fall under the final line in the quote above and I am left wondering if it is a wise or foolish person who is speaking.


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