Re: [asa] Santayana on Accommodationalism

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun Mar 11 2007 - 15:18:58 EDT

Messagea) Whatever rhetorical flourishes he may have about Venus, Lucretius is popularizing the effective atheism of Epicurus et al. To call his poem "religious" is a little odd.

b) The Genesis creation texts use figurative language but they aren't "poems." Ps.104 is a creation poem.

c) I don't know who you think is arguing that the texts are "poems" and therefore that they can't be be conveying truth about the natural world but I certainly never have.
    More to the point is the fact that we have 2 creation accounts which don't agree as historical/scientific accounts.

d) Genesis 1 & 2 are both talking about the real world which we inhabit, not a purely poetic world. That doesn't mean that those accounts have to be read as historical narrative or science. Your problem is that they don't say the sorts of things about the world that you want them to say so you (like most concordists) read what you want into them. You also (unlike most concordists) construct imaginary scenarios of mutant ape-like creatures & survivors of 5.5 Myr ago floods & then think you've got correlation with historical data.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Glenn Morton
  Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2007 10:57 AM
  Subject: [asa] Santayana on Accommodationalism

  Everyone here knows how opposed I am to the prevailing opinion on this board, that of accommodationalism. I came back for another series of drive-by postings. I just read a remarkable essay by George Santayana, "Lucretius". This essay is basically his comments upon De Rerum Natura. I will start with Lucretius who clearly wrote a RELIGIOUS doccument. Lucretius appeals to Venus to help him write his work and thus, he seems to think he is acting with the concert of the Gods:

  "MOTHER of the Aeneadae, darling of men and gods, increase-giving Venus, who beneath the gliding signs of heaven fillest with thy presence the ship-carrying sea, the corn-bearing lands, since through thee every kind of living things is conceived, rises up and beholds the light of the sun. Before thee, goddess, flee the winds, the clouds of heaven; before thee and thy advent; for thee earth manifold in works puts forth sweet-smelling flowers; for thee the levels of he sea do laugh and heaven propitiated shines with outspread light... Since thou then art sole mistress of he nature of things and without thee nothing rises up into the divine borders of light, nothing grows to be glad or lovely, fain would I have thee for a helpmate in writing the verses which I essay to pen on the nature of things for our own son of the Memmii, whom thou, goddess, hast willed to have no peer, rich as he ever is in every grace." Lucretius On the Nature of Things, tranls. By H. A. J. Munro, in The Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 12, Robert M. Hutchins, ed., (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), p. 1

  But, this religious poem (and it is poem) tells us a profound truth about the word, showing exactly what I have been saying over the years, that poetry is not exclusive of natural truth, so the claim that because Genesis is a poem it is thereby absolved of telling us observational truth. Lucretius tells us about atoms:

  "Wherefore once and again I say winds are unseen bodies, since in their works and ways they are found to rival great rivers which are of a visible body. Then again we perceive the different smells of things, yet never see them coming to our nostrils; nor do we behold heats nor can we observe cold with the eyes nor are we used to see voices. Yet all these things must consist of a bodily nature, since they are able to move the senses; for nothing but body can touch and be touched. Again clothes hung up on a shore which waves break upon become moist, and then get dry if spread out in the sun. Yet it has not been seen in what way the moisture of water has sunk into them nor again in what way this has been dispelled by heat. The moisture therefore is dispersed into small particles which the eyes are quite unable to see. Again after the revolution of many of the sun's years a ring on the finger is thinned on the underside by wearing, the dripping from the eaves hollows a stone, the bent ploughshare of iron imperceptibly decreases in the fields, and we behold the stone-paved streets worn down by the feet of the multitude; the brass statues too at the gates show their right hands to be wasted by the touch of the numerous passers by who greet them. These things then we see are lessened, since they have been thus worn down; but what bodies depart at any given time the nature of vision has jealously shut out our seeing." Lucretius On the Nature of Things, tranls. By H. A. J. Munro, in The Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 12, Robert M. Hutchins, ed., (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), p. 4-5

  Let it be noted that Lucretius had zero direct evidence for atoms, all was indirect. Much of the rest of the world didn't accept atomism for another 1800 years.

  So, what we have is a religious poem which tells us truth about nature, and this is what I have been saying is a requirement for detecting truth in the religion. Now, we come to Santayana's comments. He seems to agree that Lucretius is not a mythological poem.

  "Mythology, **that to a childish mind is the only possible poetry**, sounds like bad rhetoric in comparison. The naturalistic poet abandons fairy land, because he has discovered nature, history, the actual passions of man. His imagination has reached maturity; its pleasure is to dominate, not to play." George Santayana, "Lucretius," in Robert M. Hutchins, and Mortimer J. Adler, Gateway to the Great Books, Vol. 10, (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1963), p. 373

  I emphasized the phrase that seems relevant to those who seem to think that if it is a poem, it must be mythology and then apply that belief to Genesis. Mythology is not the only kind of poetry.

  Yet, lacking truth, here is what Santayana says about the RELEVANCE of the poem to our lives (my emphasis).

  "Suppose, however-and it is a tenable supposition-that Lucretius is quite wrong in his science, and that there is no space, no substance, and no nature. **His poem would then lose its pertinence to our lives and personal convictions**; it would not lose its imaginative grandeur. We could still conceive a world composed as he describes. Fancy what emotions those who lived in such a world would have felt on the day when a Democritus or a Lucretius revealed to them their actual situation. How great the blindness or the madness dissipated, and how wonderful the vision gained! How clear the future, how intelligible the past, how marvelous the swarming atoms, in their unintentional, perpetual fertility! What the sky is to our eyes on a starry night, that every nook and cranny of nature would resemble, with here and there the tentative smile of life playing about those constellations. Surely that universe, for those who lived in it, would have had its poetry. It would have been the poetry of naturalism. Lucretius, thinking he lived in such a world, heard the music of it, and wrote it down." George Santayana, "Lucretius," in Robert M. Hutchins, and Mortimer J. Adler, Gateway to the Great Books, Vol. 10, (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1963), p. 374

  Now, if someone like Santayana can easily see that a poem lacking natural truth causes said poem to 'lose its pertinence to our lives and personal convictions', why on earth are christians unable to see this?

  I will not reply today because I will use up most of my posts in the 3 threads I intend to start.

  They're Here: The Pathway Papers
  Foundation, Fall, and Flood
  Adam, Apes and Anthropology

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Received on Sun Mar 11 14:20:08 2007

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