Faith and Redemption

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2 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    Speaking as a Jew, I think it’s very unclear in what sense the Jewish people have made “progress” in the past many centuries. Within the religion’s tenets (and redemptive narrative), a diaspora isn’t progress. Nor is the fact that both marriage outside the religion and an attenuation of religious observance have become the norm in the diaspora (guilty, on both counts). OTOH, from the viewpoint of a diaspora Jew from a Western democracy, some of the current policies of the State of Israel don’t entirely represent “progress,” either. Jewish history, to the extent it makes sense to speak of that as a unity, has certainly had plenty of splendeurs as well as many misères. But viewed overall, is that progress, or simply an evolution?

    Evolution doesn’t necessarily entail progress. Is it progress that humans have lost the tails of their ancestors? Or that they’ve lost their gills? It’s been OK so far, but no one knows about the future. Our descendants might regret the loss, or even grow them back.

    While there’s much to admire in Aristotle, I think the law-and-literature move to apply his Poetics here is a mistake. Certainly narratives are relevant to legal cases, deals, political struggles, political argument, and the like. But that’s the view from the sort of Flatland in which we live our daily life. From the viewpoint of a 4-dimensional observer, the dichotomy of comedy and tragedy, and the teleology of the “redemption” arc, improperly exclude a middle: the simple evolution of a legal system, and of a polity, in time.