Sunday, March 07, 2010

Wright on Philo

Today, a public conversation with Robert Wright. His book The Evolution of God charts an intellectual path beyond the faith-versus-reason debate. Wright takes a relentlessly logical look at the history of religion, exposing its contradictions. Yet he also traces something revelatory moving through human history.
Mr. Robert Wright: The basic direction in which social organization moved, that is, from hunter-gatherer village to chiefdom, ancient state, empire, and now we're on the verge of a globalized society, I'm arguing that the affect that that's had on our conception of God's compassion has tended to be a good one. That as the world grows, a social organization gets more complex, people get more inter-dependant, you see an adaptation on the part of God, and it does become a God of broader compassion.

One of Wright's heroes is Philo (20 BC - AD 50), a Jew living in cosmopolitan Alexandria, who, according to Wright, 

 Philo was trying to reconcile the Greek philosophy that he was encountering, which had a kind of a scientific aura, with his Jewish heritage. Trying to reconcile the Torah with a kind of scientific outlook. And I think that's why he talks about a God that's not anthropomorphic and talks about a God that imparts this order to the universe. So the laws of nature are manifestations of Divine Will. And a really interesting thing about Philo — we're getting around to the non-zero-sumness part — Philo saw the world as moving towards greater and greater interdependence and ultimately, as history is culminating, in a giant global society and, in fact, a democracy. And he saw that driven by the interdependence of people, but that society would congeal on a global level he saw as being driven by the kind of need that people have for one another as a practical matter. They have to get along. And this brings us to the term "non-zero-sum."

Philo, Logos, and Non-zero from Speaking of Faith on Vimeo.

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