講多錯多?沉默之於宗教及日常語言之用 The Art of Silence in Everyday and Religious Discourses

Featured講多錯多?沉默之於宗教及日常語言之用 The Art of Silence in Everyday and Religious Discourses

面對語言含混有礙溝通的問題,本文簡論日常及宗教語言的使用及溝通之法,在於沉氣感默,虛心明辨。

Language Ambiguity最近,我總是在思索,宗教語言如何導致人與人之間的隔閡。宗教語言意義含混,往往成為信徒與非信徒,甚或是信徒之間溝通的障礙,儘管含混是想像及創意的必要條件。舉個例子,每當信徒提到「神」時,他們都在想些什麼呢?「神」的能指多義,含糊未解,那他們在指涉同一位神嗎?他們有疑慮時,如何可安心相信或肯定他們口中的字詞能成功指涉這「神」?就是這些語言哲學的老問題近來不斷困擾着我,我才會重新審視沉默不語,留神感通的重要。

有時我會假想,沒有獨一虛體人格神之概念的文明,或許只是對「神」這樣的超然現象避而不談,噤而不語,而非全然不去想像,因為他們可能只是比我們更明白語言的限制,而不去妄語,形容那不能形容之實相而已。然而,對於超然現象,「講多錯多」是真的嗎?神真的不能形容嗎?我認為如果神在人看來是「神」,能冠以一名,於人來說必定具有某種意義。無神論者提出某宗教的神不存在或沒有臨在於世,其實只是在批判某宗教的神對他們來說只屬概念,只因為他們對那神毫無經驗。但對於抱有真實不虛之信仰者而言,能稱某象為「神」,不論是否自覺如此,他們必然覺得這神般的現象,與他們所感知的各種其他世界萬象的差異之大,使兩者不能相提並論,有必要用一個獨立字詞把兩者分開;於是,有神和非神之別。人類可用這種能力分開世界萬象中各人各物,並視這些人物為獨立存在的個體。有時哲學家會把這種能力稱為存有直觀(existential intuition)。這種人類甚至生物本有的能力,讓我們可接着用理性(包括認知能力和意志),外輔語言,指出有甚麼東西存在,而若然我們未有經歷別人所言的存在之物,便不能用存有直觀想像它,一籌莫展;如有需要,便唯有在我們經歷到這物、這現象之前打發它,斥退別人視這現象為存有的經歷。我認為我們應帶警惕分別之心,開放自己的經驗,先虛心聆聽別人的生命經歷,理解他們為何如此描述他們所經歷的現象,又為何為其冠以此名(是因為語言的文化傳統?還是因為這是內省而得的最佳命名選擇?),才能免卻自說自話,迷信己意的陷阱。

這樣看來,我們不能再說「眼見為實」,只因為實是大於眼所能見的,諸如各種史實、心理狀態等。實由人斷,但前提是要虛心聆聽,又要警惕判斷何者為實而何者不。於是,這又回到我先前所指的含混特性,即宗教語言的特性之一。含混有礙溝通,但如聆聽者能先沉默不語,或至少慢慢進言,虛心明辨,按當時處境感通溝通對話主題的客體,例如論「神」時,感通你我用「神」一字時指涉的、可經歷的現象,就可順利溝通,不至淪為自言自語。西方語言使用的傳統,傾向反問字詞使用者所用字詞的意思。問清定義與否需因時制宜,如無助理解溝通,可成一誤,影響可大可小,小則因以字解字,不能以字以外指涉的外物直解字義本身,所以更難明白所用語言的意思;大則不問處境,無關感通,判義時只求沒有明辨的盲目信仰,解字時只留毫不虛心的冷血推理,故不可取。反之,聆聽者若先沉下氣來,感受當前語境的常態與流變,攝通對方在這語境下的存在,寂然不動,感而遂通,表面詞𢑥以上所傳之情、所達之意自然不問自明;屢問定義便成多此一舉,亦難由此生出傳意的錯謬。由此可見,日常語言溝通之法,不論是否涉及宗教,均需沉氣感默,虛心而求生命經歷,明辨而判現象實相,方能直面世間萬象,以致探求「神」之本相。

IMG_5669

於二零一七年六月三十日晚寫畢。

Is It Friendship or Romance? A Modern Ambiguity in Identifying Relationship and a Solution Based on Personhood 能成為密友,大概總帶著愛?

FeaturedIs It Friendship or Romance? A Modern Ambiguity in Identifying Relationship and a Solution Based on Personhood 能成為密友,大概總帶著愛?

A lot of my friends based primarily on experience their knowledge of what category the relationship they are experiencing belongs to. I do too, but perhaps I do a bit more generalization of experience and put it into words no abstracter than action. I have not been approaching knowledge from wider experience for a long time since childhood, but in these recent years something has changed me to respect experience more than I did, but I will do the sharing some time later. A point to make now is that some friends are mistaken in still believing that I am as “off-grounded” or idealistic as some months before. And maybe because they don’t reflect in the same way I do. But, well, on experience I reflect. I have reflected on what love ideally, typically and basically is, and a blog entry has been published. I have reflected on some other things as well. Particularly, for now, on the ultimate differences between romantic relationship and friendship. And perhaps it is high time I shared this view of mine.

There is, for long, an ambiguity between friendship and romantic relationship or in transitions between the two. (Watch two Cantonese videos from Stakk for street interviews for a sense of this ambiguity. [1] [2]) They cannot simply be different in degree and are not the two poles within a continuum, because the interconnections of power relations or meaning-making directions within a relationship structure entails its irreducible structural, systemic and functional complexity. [3] Basically, for now I think C.S. Lewis (C.S. 路易斯) is right in understanding relationship in terms of whether it is an inclusive one or an exclusive one [4], since even during and after years of search, I could not see any alternatives with the same ultimacy (on the socio-culturo-psychological level) in describing the ontological difference of the two relationships at hand. (If you can think of any, please, you must inform me.) On the one hand, friends often appear in our minds as a group, or two or a few more people opening their arms to others so that more of them can join hands together. The Chinese phrase of “friends”, “朋友”, involves two word characters, the first (“朋”) meaning those with the same (or similar) virtues and the second (“友”) meaning those with the same (or similar) orientation of the will (i.e. to where to head in life). So, theoretically speaking, the number of friends with similar virtues and orientation of the will can form a group of friends. It is in this sense how friendship is, or can be, inclusive. On the other hand, people who are in romantic love with each other always appear as two persons, but they are too onto each other (e.g. building their own little living spaces at home which outsiders cannot enter publicly) so that no more persons can join their exclusive love towards each other, at least as TVB soap dramas often depict. (But I believe this mutual signification of targets of exclusive love is malign, unless it is grounded on the unconditional love linked to the community and eventually reality, in forms such as donating monthly to a charitable organization for the poor because both the husband and the wife had been in poverty and are empathetic to people in similar situations, and they both would like to oriented their will to the monthly donation.) So, it is in the first place reasonable to see that romantic relationship is generally exclusive. But it is a bit too neat for me to assign the inclusive relationship to friendship and the exclusive relationship to modern romantic relationship (some of which will ideally and eventually lead to marriage, presumably the personal (or whole-person) union of two complementary genders (or even sexes)). 

An example for a (more-or-less) benign form of friendship that is exclusive: Two friends share the same virtues and orientation of the will, but the way they share them (e.g. the way they communicate involving jargons or words that are not familiar to outsiders) are excluding others from joining the relationship, because their way of sharing the virtues and orientation of the will makes themselves more cohesive and consistent (in terms of beliefs and values) with each other and at the same time makes themselves less approachable by others. So, there can be friendship that is not at all times inclusive but sometimes exclusive. An example of a (more-or-less) benign form of romantic relationship that is inclusive: Two people in romantic love mutually see themselves in each other and see the other in themselves best in modern times (i.e. to be precisely, after 16th-century English nationalism), but the way they mutually see themselves in each other and see the other in themselves can also more-or-less be the way they relate to a third party (and maybe also a fourth party and so on). Thousands and thousands of extramarital affairs often start like this, I believe. So, there can be romantic relationship that is not all at times exclusive but sometimes inclusive.

People have been giving explanations to help us understand more about the ambiguity problem of identifying relationship or the non-correspondance problem of inclusiveness or exclusiveness mapping to friendship or romantic relationship. Some theo-religious explanations would be that it is the human non-optimal condition (e.g. in their terms, original and/or actual sin) that defies these God-given stable relationship structure, but they often dismiss the God-responsible reality of the structural mobility within these relationships. And some poststructuralist (or poststructuralist-friendly) explanations would be that they are the worldwide movements since 1960s that have liberated people from authoritarian male-dominated (social) structures, of which relationship structure is one kind, giving more social freedom to people such that they can now choose their own friends and own love with less normative bound imposed on them by traditional social forces, or that they can at least choose another structural frame of reference according to which their lives can orient, but they often disregard that dynamics and freedom can still actually be present within structures in a God-centered premodern social order or a Nation-centered modern social order only if those social orders base their structural focal point on exemplified personhood (i.e. personhood embodied by an individual or a concrete social unit). Those explanations are, at least to me, inadequate in helping us understand our lived experience of encountering the ambiguity abovementioned.

How can we understand relationship so that relationships can no longer be categorically ambiguous when we will it to be? There are some points to note: We probably do not want relationship to be static, dead and without mobility, but we do want a dynamically stable relationship that incorporates freedom, passion and sense of excitement in its formation, development and healthy degeneration, if any, and at the same time is situated and grounded so that its stability can engender senses of security in love and willing commitment. Then, with this dynamic transition, we doubtlessly want relationship to be sufficiently ambiguous and unpredictable such that we can be constantly guided to a state of personal welfare of whole-person betterment out of our experiential expectation so that the passivity of a healthy relationship can bring us self-knowledge that we previously do not possess, but still not too ambiguous in a sense that as longer as we want to make sense of this relationship in terms of categories or concepts, we have the tools to make this relationship structure conceivable. So what is a solution of mine? As I believe that personhood is central to our existential experience of all times, we have to dig deeper into what relationship means to personhood.

A relationship is healthy if and only if it, as a causal result of nurture by the members in that relationship, coheres with reality, or in this case best characteristic of guided nature on the broadest level on which the relationship ecosystem lies, which is in turn respectfully read or interpreted by the subjects in that relationship. (For example, a family relationship is healthy if and only if the family members ABC involving in advancing the relationship nourishes the relationship in whatever ways that is in accordance with what reality treated as one sovereign subject or one thing of its own kind we can relate to is respectfully interpretatively perceived to be (i.e. what realistically (and idealistically [5]) makes a family a family according to the reality one perceive). On this basis, say, people who endorse deontological Kantian ethics who think it is most realistic and idealistic to treat others as one wants to be treated and in this way adhere to the golden rule of ethics and morality will naturally endorse that it is best and healthiest for a family ABC to work on, in general, what a family member would expect another family member to do and, in particular, what the other family members B and C would expect this family member A to do which would respect A’s autonomy as a person such that when this family member A expects the other family members B and C to fulfil certain duties, he or she would reciprocally respect their autonomies as different persons.) Given this intuitive and uncontroversial description of a healthy relationship, it is best a relationship directs towards where reality treated as one sovereign subject or one thing of its own kind we can relate to lies. Some established religions usually have simpler formulations of the one sovereign reality, because religious people of those religions can possibly respectfully read or interpret reality as a personal God. Other religions and total or primary worldviews (i.e. views about reality or the world that can explain all phenomena experienced by humanity actually and/or potentially in the future) would have more complex formulations, which exclude a personal God as a ontological posit, but the explanatory power of which may not be inferior to established religions.

A person’s course of life would involve his or her engaging in different relationships, be them friendship, romance or others. There would likely be one or a few of them on which the person devotes most of his or her lifetime, but which of them are or should be those? I follow Liah Greenfeld’s analysis of modern passions that our emotional repertoire (or the way we feel) determines our existential experience (or the way we experience reality as existent subjects) [6], and modernity primarily implies the primacy of romance over friendship or fellowship that is often called into attention in Western premodern times. Since the primacy of romance is still very evident in our modern (late-modern or even post-modern) times, it can be safely said that in a paradigmatic (late-)modern life, it is a (or several) romantic relationship(s) which one devotes most time in sustaining and developing. We would see romantic relationships as the most meaningful relationship in a life, but it could just be a modern phenomenon related first and foremost to the emotional repertoire we get. An example of premodern emphasis would be priestly fellowship in a religious order, where priests hold on to celibacy and value friendship and brotherhood in the union with God over marriage between the sexes. Also, independent of whether or not the most meaningful relationship in a life must be romance in modern times, these relationships would probably be, in most of the times, benignly or healthily exclusive or limitedly inclusive yet still aiming at (A1) coherence and union with reality per se (and thus automatically also social reality) and as a natural consequence, (A2) projection of this love onto reality (including social reality) as unconditional as possible (so that up till this point, both forms are possible to cohere best with reality). An example of how the projection of this love unconditionally on reality makes a couple’s life meaningful: a couple AB caring exclusively for each other’s academic career, during a double dating, care for another couple CD whose exclusiveness are similar to them as all of them rest their attention on academic career, but without presuppositions and predispositions on prohibiting their scope of care, on the dining table, they also talk about the recent economic crisis when the discussions on academic career naturally transit to this new topic the couple AB is originally feeling bored about. Precisely because the relationship structure of AB relate to the social reality in a good way, they naturally feel interested in the economic topic because it relates to CD, as they can know more of CD by talking about the economic topic they are disinterested in. And there would consider the knowledge of CD is meaningful enough to contribute to their standing as persons and a couple, as they relate to one another for their endeavour for meaning and meaningfulness of their life and lives. It shows that relationship is integral to the sustenance of personhood, as human beings are primarily social beings and beings of reality, and it is at least historically impossible that they live a meaningful personhood without being in a society and in reality.

Therefore, the distinction between romance and friendship has to relate ultimately to the need to achieve (A1) the coherence of a person’s course of life with reality (and the social reality thereof) to lead a good life consisting of healthy relationships. And hence, it is by the nature of relationship itself insufficient to be determined as rightful, healthy and benign without considering the context, scope of operation or environment in which the relationship situates. Therefore, my solution is twofold. The first part of my solution is a dissolution: The need of the distinction is dissolved by replacing this need with another more urgent and important need the satisfaction of which will automatically mean the settlement of this need of distinction. In fact, the need of the distinction between romantic relationship and friendship is dissolved by replacing this need with another more urgent and important need: the need to achieve (A1) the coherence of a person’s course of life with reality (and the social reality thereof) so as to lead a good life consisting of healthy relationships. Moreover, as this need is satisfied, the need of distinction is settled; there is no more need to distinguish the two. But people who still feel the need of distinguishment even after the need to achieve the coherence of a person’s course of life with reality (and the social reality thereof) requires not this part of the solution. Maybe they are curious about whether it conforms more to the one sovereign reality that this or that particular relationship be regarded as romance or friendship. Here is the second part of my solution:

Every individual relationship counts. And it is in the first place that the subject counts the particular relationship at hand. If the subject as the member of the relationship experiences the relationship, they must have a certain tendency to characterize it. The key is just to be true to oneself, and one would know whether one is true to oneself when one is given enough perceptual space (i.e. space to perceive one’s internal state or to introspect) and a glacial temporality (i.e. time with a glacial or slow pace). These can be provided by parents for a child, by teachers for a student, by counsellors for a client, by friends for a friend and by partners for a beloved. There are two identifiable problems these people who still feel the need of distinguishment of the kinds of relationship after their focus has been tuned back to the work for achieving (A1) would encounter:

(P1) There is insufficient suitable vocabulary to describe the relationship as the subject wants to make sense of it.

(P2) The subject as the member of the relationship is not self-conscious enough to conceptualize his or her internal feelings or sensations of, about, in and towards the relationship.

My solution to (P1) would be: (S1) Exhaust the currently available symbolic devices or vehicles (i.e. languages, signs, actions, activities and other expressions) to express their feelings if their primary aim is to communicate their experiences, and they would like others to understand. Or else, invent their own language or words, just as some people who are diagnosed as mentally disabled would do (as they inevitably tend to self-refer to their own semiotic world or reality), and signal others to understand them. My solution for (P2) would be: (S2) If some of them are conscious of the ambiguity but not of the experience, they would have to be led by the elder to discover their experiential internal state during their process of maturity; otherwise, they probably would not even be self-conscious of both the ambiguity and the experience, and then there will be no problem to be dealt with in the first place.

If every individual relationship long and relatable enough to be meaningful in one’s course of life counts, then the focus during individual contemplation should be on the individual, particular relationship instead of the abstract type of relationship or relationship structure. After all, exclusiveness/inclusiveness and romance/friendship are just notions helping one decipher the relations with the other part(ies) within a relationship. Distinguishing the concepts clearly is not an end for a meaningful life of sociality. There is no need per se to drag along the conceptual distinction just for the sake of individual contemplation on some particular relationship.

However, if reality treated as one sovereign subject or one thing of its own kind we can relate to presents to us such that there are some types of relationships or some forms of expressions of relationships (no matter which types the relationships) which it repels (that is, holding those relationships or having those expressions would be regarded as at all times evil or anti-realistic), then it is of course necessary to avoid those for maintaining a rightful, healthy and meaningful life. It must nevertheless be stressed that careful and respectful discernment upon which types of relationships or forms of expressions of relationships reality repels is essential to such life in which one develops a truthful relationship with reality as such. The ambiguity problem now switches to one of the most important topics of realist epistemology on how discernment is to be done. And it suffices to say here that I temporarily halt the exploration of another topic now.

But still, if the problem extends to a societal level, the biggest part of this extended problem will remain unanswered. Socio-political administrative needs and pastoral needs require a clear distinction of the two relationship structures or institutions so that resources can be better allocated to each type of them, or that rights and responsibilities (including sins) can be better assigned to each type of them etc. It is but a necessity to answer in what manner or ways we should classify one relationship structure as a social institution just for the sake of resource, right and responsibility allocation etc. If this article plans to solving the problem on an individual level, I believe it has done its job. Because I have not yet had an answer for this societal question, my sharing shall end here. Other thoughts are experiences are reserved for next time.

What do you think about my solution?


[1] A Cantonese video from Stakk on whether to Hong Kong young people there is true friendship between people of two sexes/genders: https://www.facebook.com/StakkFactory/videos/660295510845970/

[2] A Cantonese video from Stakk on how Hong Kong young people would feel and think if friends of the same sex confess their feelings towards them and would like to transform their friendship into further, possibly romantic, relationship: https://www.facebook.com/StakkFactory/videos/640667446142110/

[3] The relationship types, friendship and romantic relationship, cannot simply be different in degree and are the two poles within a continuum, because as there are interconnections of power relations or meaning-making directions within a relationship structure, the relationship is said to be arranging in a certain way. The very fact that it is the arrangement of those interconnections that makes the relationship a relationship structure guarantees the impossibility to abandon the systemic complexity and reduce the whole structure into its parts or the parts into the whole structure, so friendship and romantic relationship are categorically distinct because of its systemic, functional complexity. So they are different in kind. (Note: seeing relationship as structure is not necessarily a view that I adopt here, but it is provisional and could be seen as metaphorical.)

[4] Read Lewis, C.S. (1960). The Four Loves.

[5] If reality is not believed to be static but developing, in some sense we can say that what is expected of reality of the future and/or of the imagination of the non-actual would be ideal; seeing reality ideally is to be idealistic. Sometimes being idealistic would be used in contrast to being realistic (i.e. seeing reality as it has been in the past and is at the present and/or as it will normally be in its actuality), but here I am talking about the cases where the idealistic and the realistic points of view overlap in reality.

[6] Greenfeld, L. (2016). Advanced Introduction to Nationalism, (pp.112). Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.


Finished writing at 18:51 on 31 January 2017.

On Love (of All Times) 何謂愛?

On Love (of All Times) 何謂愛?
b
Berlin Wall, Berlin, Germany.

To many, love is the most difficult concept to analyse, because its expressions are too plural and profound to be captured with a single take of theorization. Nevertheless, sourcing from the historical traces it left in time and its ahistorical enduring nature in different cultures, philosophers, psychologists and theologians, majorly, have been diving into the deepest sea of affection and bringing the most mysterious emotional endeavor into surface. What is it that they constantly attempt to clarify but think that they fail to grasp completely, then? It is not itself. It is that “[which] alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no; it is an ever fixed mark, That looks on tempests, and is never shaken…”, as Shakespeare once said. Oh… It is love, a kind of relation we modern people conceive right from the 16th century when modernity begins and we still hold on to as we turn to late modern times. But what precisely is this modern love of our times? Before plunging into the ocean of modernity, it is better that we be more careful in our investigation during submersion. Let’s give it a go in locating what love in its most generic type and in its basic form ideally is.

My account of love has been thought by me as being true, because I have not yet seen a single case of love not analyzable by it. So, with the largest degree of confidence, I shall argue for its accuracy in describing the ideal reality and its truth. Here is my primary attempt:

Love should be typically and basically the relation of mutual entailment of self-identities (and otherself-identities) between a party A and another party B, or simply, the relation from which both parties A and B find themselves through the other parties B and A respectively and find the other through themselves. (A Chinese equivalent translation would be 愛於己方,達彼生己,虛己得彼也;愛於彼方,至己見彼,空彼獲己也。)

More specifically with details to be explained, love (L0) is ideally or should be in its most generic type (thus not specifying a type of love) and in its basic form (thus not discussing cases with more than two persons involved) (L1) the mutual sociocultural-identity-entailing relation between a person A and another person or personified object B (can be itself) (L2a) through which A can either find or affirm its sociocultural identity within the context of reality as the whole from B, by A’s understanding (conceptually and/or perceptually) of how the personal reality can offer through B its raison d’être, the cause, the meaning or the purpose of A’s being; and (L2b) through which B can either find or affirm B’s sociocultural identity within the context of reality as the whole from A itself, by A’s understanding of how the personal reality can offer through itself B’s raison d’être, the cause, the meaning or the purpose of B’s being; and (L3) vice versa. (L4) The loving relation should have its source drawn from the personal reality. (L5) For a cycle of A’s self-movement of the loving relation with B, or the other, who co-defines A’s self socioculturally with A, it starts from (L5a) A’s naïve self-care, (L5b) A’s decentering of its self at A itself, to (L5c) the engulfment of B, or the other, into A’s new “self” (we better distinguish this from the concept of self and term it as otherself), and ends at (L5d) A’s enlarged otherself-care, where A’s care from the self to the otherself is actually A’s care of himself to A’s care of reality as a localized subject, namely B, or B in A, defined in relation to the personal reality. The reciprocal case is true for a cycle of that of B’s. (L6) It is in this manner how A can become a communal subject with B as another member, enabling the possibility of the formation of community between A and B by the emergence of cultural symbols sharable between A and B in the community made possible by the loving relation substantiating the community.

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Central, Hong Kong.
Following (L0), here, love is described ideally or normatively, often thought of as distinguished from actual cases of love, but it is more accurate to see it as the ends what all kinds of love strive to achieve. The ideal form of love is more of a process to the end state to which all forms of love work to become, and it is in this sense how love is a becoming relation instead of a fixed, static state or a relation of being. More on this later. In all tokens of loving relations, ranging from romantic relationships to friendship, the two parties involved strive to understand themselves through the other party and the other party in relation to themselves. In modern times, the former is more evident than the latter, because there is a larger need to position oneself in the world than before. Secularization in modern times makes room for a free choice of one’s social position, where an individual can freely choose and strive for the occupation the society offers whenever one likes, which does not happen in God-centered pre-modern societies, where social mobility is limited because one’s occupation and social status are thought of as assigned at birth by God. But the one-sided orientation of modern love does not preclude that one is not motivated to understand the other party in relation to oneself. When one is in love romantically, it is not difficult to see how one could always imagine what one’s beloved would think and act, and it is in relation to oneself can one sees the other, yet it is still true that selfless love is rarer to find in modern times, when all of our actions are said to be only motivated by individual needs and wants. Even when one engages in the weakest form of friendship, say, in a social meeting in which we meet acquaintances but not (yet) friends, one has to use one’s epistemic resources, such as experiences and reasoning, to at least picture the other in one’s own mind, and seek themselves in the other through searching for common topics. Anyway, the goal of mutual understanding is still present in all forms of love, independent of situational context. Hence, the above account of love is also described in its most generic type, that is, not exclusive to only some type of love. Moreover, for analytical simplicity, we tend to focus on love in its basic form, not first and foremost discussing cases with more than two persons involved, because two-person relation is the simplest case, and it is intuitive enough for us to see that even for a community of friends, it is on one’s simultaneous relations with each person in the community (or the community as a person, some may say) how a loving relation is built upon.
a
Brentonico, Italy.
c
Hong Kong Science Museum, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Hong Kong.
From (L1), love is the mutual sociocultural-identity-entailing relation between a person A and another person or personified object B. What is suggested here is that love is at least a human endeavour. Any other being existent evolutionarily prior to the human person seem not to engage in the loving relation within their species, but it is possible that mammals behaving like human can exemplify or resemble human love, so it is best to use “person” instead of “human” to represent behaviorally human-like loving relations. A person’s love, similarly, targets another person, but here it can also be a personified object or the person itself though in a second order. The former is possible, since examples like a little girl projecting her caring love to a beloved Barbie doll are in need of explanation in terms of loving relation, as she treats the doll as a target person of motherly care. Behaviours, chiefly modern, like owing domestic pets, engaging in objectophilia or fetishism, are explainable with this account of love. The latter is likely too, for one often adores oneself when one feels that one is doing a good job, say, in academic works. Pride and narcissism are examples of stronger forms of self-love. Furthermore, it is argued that love is essentially and basically a relation between two parties as subjects. It is a bonding in cultural terms which demonstrates the mutuality of the two parties, resulting in the action and reaction of causality and interdependence in sociocultural reality. One may be able to observe this bonding between two persons, but would use a different sociological term to describe it. Examples in ascending order of interactivity are “social behavior”, “social action”, “social contact”, “social interaction”, “repeated interaction”, “regular interaction”, “regulated inaction” and “social relation”, of which “friendship”, “romantic relationships”, “professional or organizational relationships”, “kinship” etc. are types. To pay tribute to the traditional conceptions of relationships in different civilizations, in which discussions of relationships between beings circle around concepts like the Christian “agápe“, the Greek “éros”, “philía” and “storgē”, the Chinese “ren” and the Indian “purusha”, “love” suffice to serve as a generic term of description, as it is mostly used in modern context to capture the utmost importance of modern experience of relationships.
d
With a community at Tuen Mun, Hong Kong.

(L1) states that love is primarily a mutual sociocultural-identity-entailing relation between A and B. (L2a), (L2b) and (L3) expands and explains this description. Picturing sociocultural reality as the map showing all the permutations of social statuses and occupations from which one can choose and of social institutions and cultural communities at which one can reside and to which one can belong, through love, A can either find or affirm its identity in sociocultural reality from B, by A’s understanding (conceptually and/or perceptually) of how reality can offer through B its raison d’être, that is, the cause, the meaning or the purpose of A’s being; and (L2b) B can either find or affirm B’s sociocultural identity from A itself, by A’s understanding of how reality can offer through A itself B’s raison d’être, that is, the cause, the meaning or the purpose of B’s being. (L3) suggests that in love, it is also the case when A or B switches position, as the relation between A and B is mutual. Thus, both A and B have their identities entailed by B and A respectively.

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St. John’s Cathedral, Central, Hong Kong.
In addition to (L2a), (L2b) and (L3), (L4) asserts clearly the relation between reality and the two parties in love. I have argued for the thesis that reality is personal in another article, “A Simple Defense of Personal God from Reality” (so the interested could refer to it for more), so here I would take for granted that it is so as argued. In (L4) it is claimed that the loving relation should have its source drawn from reality. Its truth is obvious if one sees that the loving relation between A and B is happening, both in their minds and out of their minds. It is in this sense that it happens in reality. If reality is personal and thus is a being in relation to which and depending on which every other thing (in reality) exists and sustains, then it follows that this loving relation must be so grounded in the personal reality. So, through the other party in love, one party can define its own place in relation with the personal reality and get to, in an indirect way, relate to the personal reality. Of course, there can be other, direct, ways how one can relate to the personal reality, but this is not of the topic of discussion here.
f
Madrid, Spain.
Before diving in a discussion of (L5), one can see from the above that if A and B are in a loving relationship, then A and B co-define both A’s and B’s sociocultural identities in that (after A and B each alone primarily identifies its position in sociocultural reality) A can see who B is from A itself and who itself is from B; similarly, B can see who A is from B itself and who itself is from A. This is how A and B cooperate to make each of their identities known to each other. If a party, A or B, is searching for its identity in the loving relation, it is said to be engaging in a self-movement of the loving relation, because the relation is primarily an active movement of search of a self. (L5) says that in A’s self-movement of the loving relation with B, who is the other, B co-defines A’s self socioculturally with A. The loving relation, as said, is a process of becoming. The identifiable original state of the process is, as (L5a) says, the state of A’s naïve self-care, possibly describing how A desires to love itself before its encountering B as the beloved or more accurately, right before its engaging in a loving relation with B. The loving process progresses with (L5b) A’s decentering of its self at A itself, to (L5c) the engulfment of B, the other, into A’s new “self”. This outlines the movement of self in the process. One point to note is that to distinguish A’s new “self” (within which there is B) from the concept of A’s original self, it is better to term it as “otherself”, connoting the inclusion of otherness in A’s self. The process ends at (L5d) A’s enlarged otherself-care, where, derived from (L4), one can see that A’s care from the self to the otherself is actually A’s care of himself to its care of the personal reality as a localized subject, namely B, or more accurately, B in A, defined in relation to the personal reality. Also, since when A and B are in a loving relation, it is a process of self-moving perpetuation (as it lasts at least in A’s and B’s personal or interpersonal history), and it does not normally end after one instance of the love process from (L5a) to (L5d), it is very often seen as a cycle, with the state at (L5d) returning to the state of (L5a) this time with A’s self- and otherself-care not yet keeping up with the change of self of B independent of A’s influence and knowledge. So, the self-searching movement is in this sense often cyclical. Since the loving relation is mutual, the reciprocal case is true for a cycle of that of B’s apart from that of A’s.
g
Monument to the Great Fire of London, London, United Kingdom.
(L5) not only narrates how two parties can engage in a loving relation, but it also extends to (L6) and makes sense of how A can become a communal subject with B as another member belonging with A to a community, enabling the possibility of the formation of community between A and B by the emergence of cultural symbols sharable between A and B in the community made possible by the loving relation substantiating the community. Cultural symbols, often appeared in the form of concepts, are the things that which one uses to cognize and makes meaning. Further discussion of the use of symbols are not to be done here, as here it suffice to relate the loving relation between two parties to how a community can be formed semiotically, that is through the usage of the same set of symbols by identifying the former as the motivational ground for the latter, together vindicating the continued existence of the community.
h
With a friend at Hong Kong Science Museum, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Hong Kong.
Going through (L0) to (L6), it could be seen that love should be typically and basically the relation of mutual entailment of self-identities (and otherself-identities) between a party A and another party B, or simply, the relation from which both parties A and B find themselves through the other parties B and A respectively and find the other through themselves. And I believe that it is in light of this attempt of locating what love is within the sociocultural reality how we can also make sense of (i) the historical exemplifications of different types and tokens of love, like friendship, romantic relationship, family relationship, love with the personal reality etc., especially as forms of modern love of our times and of love of times thereafter, (ii) other love-related concepts, like gender, sexuality and sexual orientation, and (iii) other love-related socially established institutions, such as marriage and family. And these already hint the need of a series of other articles on similar topics. I sincerely hope that they can enlighten one’s understanding of the loving relation one often experiences in one’s life, so that we are more equipped to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Love should be typically and basically the relation of mutual entailment of self-identities…

i
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong.
Finished writing at 23:56 on 9 November 2016.
P.S. The article should not be thought of as a rigorously argued academic piece, because much of the justification of the stated claims of the totality of our human experience of the loving relation should be grounded in socio-scientific and historical analysis, which has not (yet) been provided here. My intention is just to share my views against which the readers’ own experience can be judged in order to see how some lived experience of theirs can make sense.
P.P.S. Some would ridicule what I am doing as unnecessary. They may question why I would have to write about love, as love was primarily experiential, not theoretical. But very unfortunately, I believe that they have missed the point of my writing the article on love. It is to share some thoughts based on my lived experience, not to construct a normative standard against which all types of love must be judged. I hope readers could see my point and understand me a little more.

A Simple Defense of Personal God from Reality 為人格神辯護

A Simple Defense of Personal God from Reality 為人格神辯護

Yes, you are right, if you think now for the very first time, I am going to defend a Christian God in my own way philosophically in the simplest term which even laymen can understand. And here is the long-awaited argument:

Okay, our world is filled with ideas and beliefs, some of which are thought as insane, while others are deemed reasonable. But exactly which ideas and beliefs should we put in the irrational category? And which in the rational category? Following some philosophers (who may be called “reformed epistemologists”), I argue that it is at the first place reasonable for a believer to hold on to his belief that a personal God is present only if his belief is properly basic, i.e. arises naturally and immediately as a result of some cognitive faculty, like his belief that there is a tree when he visually perceive the tree in front of him. It is therefore until there comes to be a defeater against that theistic belief, or something that is strong enough to demolish his theistic belief, when the theistic belief can be overturned and abandoned. Another way to put it, if there is no such successful defeater, the believer can continue believing his properly basic belief, or in this case, his theistic belief that there exists a personal God, and still be rational. (See Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief for more.)
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Vatican City.
After showing the rationality of Christian belief before a defeater might come, one can first build a case for a Christian God for non-Christians or doubting Christians to show that what a Christian experiences is real (with partial yet significant inspiration from a reality theorist called Christopher Langan). First of all, there exists a reality. As I see it, everyone who read this article accepts or should accept the existence of reality. Even if Buddhists or Daoists may explicitly regard reality as merely conceptual and consisting only of either an infinitely regressing chain of cause and effect or illusory constructions of the mind, there are at least some occurrences, namely the illusory conception of such description of what the world is and is like. All of them are real in a sense that something has really happened. This all-encompassing definition of reality is and includes everything perceivable and conceivable, and there is nothing outside reality. If there is said to be something outside this reality, then it must in turn be in reality, as the fact that you are thinking about it, or conceiving it, shows that it is real enough to affect things that are thought of as in reality. Second, reality is one whole, and is of relation of things, many things, because given two different, separate things, ultimately they can be reduced to a common ground and be reductively the same, for there is always a medium separating them and relating them. It is this medium to which the two separate things can be reduced. Thus, if reality is defined as everything real in the above-mentioned sense, there cannot be more than one fragmented realities on the ultimate level. So, both ultimate polytheism (i.e. that there are ultimately many gods) and ultimate pantheism (i.e. that ultimately there is everything which together embodies a non-individual, non-single-peronal God) are false, if they claim that the theistic subjects are on the ultimate level of reality, or that there are no subjects beyond them, because any two realities knowable or relatable to each other are (i) in reality, (ii) reductively common, and thereby of one reality.
Third, reality is one, and at the same time, double, or some may say, entangled. It is one, because different things in reality are reductively common. Meanwhile, it is double, because at least from our human perspective, the distinction between mental and material reality are still evident from immediate phenomena appearing to us. One line of argument for this dualistic understanding of reality is argued from the imaginability of a disembodied human being. That is, it is imaginable and possible that I exist and my body does not. They are but the two parts of reality that can be reduced to its real medium, in this case the human person I am. Not until the next paragraph will I explain the mechanism of such doubling, but here I have derived an empirically verifiable conclusion that I am now a person with two distinguishable parts from the intuitive premises I have in the previous paragraph. Note that reality being one and double is at the first place a kind of doubling, though it is a second-order one.
b2
On a flight, thinking.
Accepting doubling may seem troublesome at the first place, perhaps because it appears to be paradoxical that there can be two (or more) different things at one place at the same time. However, examples of doubling are often found from reality. Just take reality itself as an instance, one can reason from the manyness of reality to make sense of how many things can be entangled in one thing called reality. If one recognizes that for there to be a thing, an initial subjectivity must be assigned to it (by a, or the, personal reality, I believe), so that it is sovereign and conceptually distinguishable in one’s naming it, then one will be able to see that there must be at least an assigned distinction between it and its surrounding. Hence they are many things, conceptual, at least, but still real, as they are held together by reality and stand in relation to one another, and they are still of one reality. It is in this way how one reality can be doubled with the totality of many things. So doubling is the way reality progresses itself (or part of itself) into many things but still remains itself. People tend to separate the oneness and manyness of reality into different levels of describing reality, but on the ultimate level of reality, there can only be one real thing after all, namely reality itself.
By the same mechanism, with reference from human experience, a human being is doubled with two things, or in other words, two things are doubled in one human being, which are (i) an external body or piece of material that are conceivable and perceivable by other persons and (ii) some internal subjective mental activities that can be distinguished and concealed from other persons, which are conceptualized as an internal mind. The two things can be referred to the same person in reality, and on a manyness level of reality, they are in this sense coextensive and reductively inseparable in the one human being.
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Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Poland.
Fourth, reality is personal, thus is a being distinct from us, since it (i) embodies person-like regularity, such as laws of nature like law of universal gravitation and laws of culture like linguistic laws for human, (ii) grows, becomes and fulfills itself over time, exhibiting a direction, or some may say, purposefulness and (iii) demonstrates a united, consistent set of characters and characteristics beyond and apart in kind from other things, or more technically and specifically speaking, phenomenological beyondness and otherness from human individuals, human communities and Nature (i.e. everything that can be perceived in its material aspect). Reality is hence deemed to be naturally projecting itself as a sovereign subject with characters, and indeed, the only one in relation to which every other subject owes its existence, since there exists nothing independent of reality. To me, the conceptual projection of personality of reality is arrived naturally enough to be warranted at the first place, before discussing defeaters against it.
You may question that a concept of a thing cannot equate with the thing, but a mechanism of doubling can be used to explain the equation of the thing and its concept if it is deemed true that the thing is identified in reality with its concept. But how to see initially that it is true? From my experience, the personality of reality is evident from (i)-(iii), so naturally I can’t but conclude at the first place that it is true that reality is personal, until a defeater comes, which is not to be discussed here due to limited scope of this article.

Reality is personal.

Okay, how about the structure of a personal reality? A subject by nature expresses itself. Expression guarantees movement and presentation, so one can conclude that reality presents itself to itself (as it is all there is). (Causally but not temporally) before presentation, personal beings other than the personal reality itself can only identify the whole personal reality as primordial. With presentation, the whole personal reality is expressive, doubled with the internal primordial person, and is unitive and is to be internalized again by nature. Such dialectic timeless self-movement of the whole personal reality is manifested neatly in the Doctrine of Trinity depicting the nature of Whom the central subject being of the Christian belief is. Also, with expression and presentation of the whole personal reality, deism is refuted.
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Black Madonna of Czestochowa in the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland.
Moreover, if reality is to be wholly expressive in a confined personal material reality, it can express itself in an entangled being of wholeness and confinement by way of the cooperation of a self-initiated intention of doubling and a confined way of materialization, later contextually and historically identified as the birth from a human virgin, enhancing the layering of that point of reality. It is by this mechanism can reality materialize itself and possess both its whole and confined expressive nature in the hypostatic union of Christ’s divinity and humanity, the subject depicted in the Doctrine of Hypostatic Union of Christ.
A subject is free in deciding its action within its scope of operation as a subject. In this case, the personal reality is free in making decisions about its action within its universal scope, or putting it in another way, it is self-determining. Out of its self-expression, it can freely distinct itself from other subjective persons and potential persons from a level of manyness without doubling with itself, while acting in a way that the persons and potential persons are unitive into themselves in it, through it and by it. It is probably a rough sketch of how the universe not identical with it is freely created and sustained by it, the personal reality.
For the other Doctrines of Christianity, one just has to offer an account of how they are possible by reference to contingent historical phenomena. They are now thought of as being outside the scope of the core of reality theory, so although they are still within the area of mere Christianity, one will not discuss it here.
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St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.
One believes that it is in this direction and perhaps only in this manner of reasoning in which natural theology through the lens of reality theory can be pursued. One is still developing one’s reality theory so as to exhaust all possibilities entailed by different major, widely-shared worldviews from different cultures, so future modification or even transformation of this account is ineluctable. Due to space constraint, not much of the details of the current argumentation can be presented completely but only minimally. If one gets more time and another chance, maybe one could work on a more detailed version of the defense of a personal God, yet given the aim of introducing every possible reader to a simple but new approach arguing for a Christian God and trying to convince some of the non-Christians and doubting Christians that this personal reality is real and present, one believes one has already fulfill the task. The rest is the instigative work of the Holy Spirit.
Finished writing on 18 September 2016.
P.S. A Chinese version of this article is currently under preparation for readers who can gain a better understanding of this article if given a version written in a language of their mother tongue.
P.P.S. This English version will also be modified later, because some points I suggested are thought to be inaccurate, such as why I believe Christian beliefs are warranted. I shall update it as soon as I have time.