“The Last Philosophy” by Don Cupitt

A masterpiece in atheistic religion.
Cupitt steers a path between realism and non-realism by on the one hand arguing that the three ’worlds’ of external reality, inner consciousness, and language are all made of the same stuff, all language-formed (or at least sign-formed – i.e. that all are presented to our attention necessarily in sign-form). So much of his argument is based on this premiss, yet he doesn’t tackle what seem obvious objections: firstly, musical or visually-artistic thought, which seems to be both intellectual and non-linguistic, and, secondly, animal-style instinctive responses to stimuli. He does sort-of address the second, by attempting to explain animal consciousness as also sign-formed (a deer has to interpret a shape in the bushes as “predator”, “another deer” or “carrier bag” before responding), and I guess he’ll address the former in a similar way, claiming that we interpret elements of music or painting as parts of a language of signs. But he doesn’t attempt this, so it’s left as an objection.
Partly through this argument, that our inner thoughts and external observations are presented to the self through the same channel, language, he deconstructs the idea of self, of a integral entity contemplating the world; he also does this by (as Lacan?) attempting a view of the self as a collection of contradictory voices (à la Bakhtin). This leads fascinatingly and convincingly to an explanation of human action (artistic or otherwise) as an attempt to create something actually non-contradictory, something which resolves the mind’s disparate elements into “something recognisably a something” (apologies to Robert Graves).
There is some great writing – he’s really engaging – and some fantastic rewriting of Christian concepts in his sceptical and non-realist terms: so eschatology refers not to some distant end of time but our present lives, as we are individually near the end of our own times…

This entry was posted in Reading and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s