Manual Jewish philosophy in a secular age

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However, the idea of a good that is not rendered meaningless by suffering and evil is not restricted to religious traditions only. She argues that, in a world without God, we need to retain an idea of the Good as the focus of moral life. We will argue that these ideas are helpful for theoretically underpinning the specifically pastoral quality of pastoral care in a secular age. Like Taylor , Murdoch develops a broad perspective on morality. So, again like Taylor, Murdoch associates spirituality with striving for the good and stresses that not just any good we strive for in life can be seen as the focus of a spiritual quest.

Where Taylor speaks about incomparably higher goods or ultimate goods that involve strong evaluation, Murdoch uses the overarching concept of the Good. Rather than referring to specific ultimate goods, the Good seems to refer to a specific quality that ultimate goods may or may not have. Murdoch departs from a view of people as naturally selfish; the moral task that human beings face in life is to shift from selfishness to unselfishness. Moral development is the difficult process of purifying ourselves by turning our attention away from ourselves.

So, moral development involves transcending our ego and its selfish inclinations. Second, Murdoch associates transcendence with realism. The movement beyond the self is at the same time a movement towards reality. Murdoch uses the metaphor of vision to elucidate the connection between unselfishness and realism. She argues that looking at reality as it is requires a loving, compassionate gaze that is not obscured by our private and often selfish fantasies.

Third, the Good is transcendent in the sense that it is an orientation point that always remains distant. Our attempts to see reality as it is are never exhaustive due to psychological limitations connected with our selfish nature and due to the inexhaustible complexity of reality. In other words, the Good refers to a perfection that human beings can approach but never achieve. In this regard, Murdoch speaks about the nonrepresentability or indefinability of the Good and about its mysteriousness.

The Good remains a mystery as reality eventually remains mysterious to us. We can attempt to look at things in the light of the Good, but we cannot look at the Good itself. In our religious lives we are responding to a transcendent reality. We all have some sense of this, which emerges in our identifying and recognizing some mode of what I have called fullness, and seeking to attain it. The Good, as Murdoch understands it, is something we can only strive for but never arrive at, something which eventually remains mysterious.

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Representing the Good is rather to be understood as representing the faith that some good remains believable in ultimate situations, that it makes sense to keep searching for such a good even though it remains to some extent mysterious. So, whether or not pastoral caregivers work from a religious inspiration, their work involves a kind of faith: faith that it makes sense not to give up on goodness even though goodness is fragile.

We will do so by consecutively zooming in on three aspects of pastoral care practice: the pastoral relationship with clients, the pastoral response to stories of clients, and the pastoral role in organizations and society at large. Concerning the pastoral relationship, representing the Good means recognizing the mysteriousness of clients as Others. So, representing the Good entails not only recognizing the alterity of clients but also making a sustained effort to connect with them. Building on the work of Levinas, among others, Butler offers an ethical perspective on the relational dynamics of recognizing the irreducible alterity of others and simultaneously attempting to understand them.

She proposes rethinking recognition as a process of desiring to know the other while keeping this desire alive at all times. With respect to the pastoral response to stories of clients, recognizing the mysteriousness of the Other refers in the first place to the otherness of the client. Furthermore, they realize that their attempts to see the reality of their clients are never exhaustive, that there is always more to see, to hear, and to know about them.

So, practices of representing the Good are client-centered; the visions of the good of the client are the primary focus of attention, not those of the pastoral caregiver. Their response needs to be embedded in efforts to genuinely engage with the suffering other.

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Representing the Good involves looking with love and compassion at all of reality, not just at the reality of a particular client. Pastoral caregivers would certainly not support visions of the good that involve violence, oppression, or injustice. In particular, when clients reduce others to objects in self-centered stories, representing the Good includes taking the ethical stance that these others—like the client—are unique beings who are too complex to grasp.

It is important to emphasize this ethical aspect of pastoral care because people not only may and do suffer as a result of actions of others but themselves may and do inflict suffering on others, as well. For instance, pastoral caregivers working with prisoners regularly need to respond to stories in which damage has been inflicted both on and by clients Schuhmann Finally, understanding pastoral care in terms of representing the Good highlights the role of pastoral caregivers in the organizations in which they work and in society at large. Taylor explains that orienting in moral space is never a purely individual process.

We do not invent our own visions of the good but adopt them from our sociocultural contexts. Here representing the Good implies in the first place supporting and contributing to efforts of creating and strengthening visions of the good that represent an aspiration for the Good. Practices of representing the Good include promoting dialogue and including marginalized or easily overheard voices in the dialogue. For instance, pastoral caregivers may initiate moral deliberation in the organizations in which they work. In public space, they may contribute to various current public discussions on the good life.

This points to the political dimension of pastoral care that has also been emphasized by LaMothe Second, representing the Good means taking a critical stance towards dominant visions of the good in organizations and society and challenging these visions when they include stereotyping or become prescriptive, oppressive, and dehumanizing. Similarly, Doehring describes social justice as an important goal of pastoral care.

Furthermore, representing the Good implies challenging dominant visions of the good that present life as fully comprehensible and thus rule out mysteriousness, vulnerability, and fallibility. When, for instance, a specific vision of the good is presented as an exhaustive representation of the Good, or when human life is evaluated in medical, juridical, psychological, economic, or financial terms, the mystery of life disappears from view and the Good is lost.

In this paper, we have used the philosophical work of Taylor , and Murdoch to address the question of how to conceptually understand pastoral care in a secular age. It is also spiritual work as the question of what people perceive as ultimately good or sacred is a central issue. All human beings may, at some point in their lives, get disoriented and need spiritual care when attempting to reorient.

As different health care professionals claim authority to provide this care, pastoral caregivers face the challenge of explaining the unique quality of the spiritual care that they provide. Pastoral caregivers represent a view of reality as ultimately mysterious and the faith that it makes sense not to give up on goodness. In our conceptual explorations, we did not aim for a completely new view of pastoral care but for a perspective that contributes to an inclusive theoretical underpinning of existing pastoral care practice in all its variety.

Throughout the paper, we have indicated connections between our perspective and ideas in the existing literature on pastoral care. In particular, the perspective that we have developed connects to the idea that meaning-making in the face of existential struggles should play a central role in the contemporary understanding of pastoral care Doehring ; Thorstenson Given the close connection between orienting processes in moral space and processes of searching for meaning in life Schuhmann and van der Geugten , we would rather use the notion of searching for meaning in life than the term meaning-making.

Speaking of searching for meaning in life highlights the existential and sociocultural and not just the psychological dimensions of processes of searching for meaning. Whereas the term meaning-making suggests that meaning can be actively created, the notion of searching for meaning in life emphasizes the vulnerability of human beings and the role of receptivity in and the fallibility of our attempts to orient in life.

Obviously, in order to legitimize pastoral care in secular contexts, an inclusive theoretical understanding of pastoral care is not sufficient. While we hope that this description contributes to an understanding of the unique input of pastoral caregivers, we also want to point out that, if recognition of mysteriousness lies at the heart of pastoral care, empirical research on pastoral care practices requires a critical view of dominant research strategies that rule out mysteriousness.

The perspective on pastoral care that has been developed in this article highlights not only the existential and spiritual dimensions of pastoral care but also its ethical and political dimensions. In our globalizing, complex world, the ethical and political dimensions of pastoral care seem to deserve special attention. Furthermore, because people are interrelated on a global scale, their attempts of pursuing the good interfere in complex ways that inevitably at times lead to tension and conflict Gergen ; Hermans and Hermans-Konopka If pastoral care is conceived of in terms of representing the Good, then pastoral caregivers need to take this into account—even in situations where they work with just one client—and cannot ignore the ethical and particularly the political aspects of their work.

In a secular age, the self-evidence of religious orienting frameworks is lost. All this does not facilitate the orientation processes of contemporary people. In a way, we might say that disorientation in moral space is a condition of our time. Rethinking pastoral care as a practice of supporting people, organizations, and societies in dealing with the complex task of searching for moral truth reveals the enormous potential of pastoral care in a secular age.

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Open Access. First Online: 21 June Human existence and the orientation metaphor According to Murdoch , developing an understanding of the human condition necessarily involves the use of metaphorical language, in particular metaphors of space, of movement, and of vision. From a philosophical perspective, Taylor has elaborated on the spatial metaphor of orientation in life in order to give a comprehensive account of human existence. Here, the metaphorical space in which processes of orientation in life take place is the space of existential questions: questions of how to live our life.

Generally, in order to find our orientation we need orienting frameworks by which we can judge where we are and in what direction we should go. According to Taylor, the aspiration to move towards and be close to strongly valued goods—to feel that these goods are well integrated in our life—is a fundamental human craving. We need an orientation towards the good in order to experience our lives as meaningful. Furthermore, an orientation to the good is constitutive of our identity and agency. Taylor explains this close connection between identity, agency, and orientation in moral space as follows: My identity is defined by the commitments and identifications which provide the frame or horizon within which I can try to determine from case to case what is good, or valuable, or what ought to be done, or what I endorse or oppose.

Generally, pastoral caregivers meet with people in situations that may be understood in terms of disorientation in moral space. They face existential questions that they cannot deal with and fail to experience a sense of meaning in life Schuhmann and van der Geugten According to Taylor , due to the temporal dimension of our lives, experiencing disorientation is not something exceptional. Generally, we only experience minor disorientation, and we manage to reorient in a habitual way that does not involve reflection. However, life events may also challenge our orientation to the good in a more fundamental way.

People who seek support from pastoral caregivers generally feel disoriented in a deep and unsettling way and do not easily or quickly manage to reorient. Taylor states something similar: In our religious lives we are responding to a transcendent reality. Recently, he and other authors have called for a reappraisal of transcendence as a central concept in psychology Freeman b ; Richardson ; Slife and Richardson He sees the Other as the primary source of both existential nourishment and ethical enrichment.

Ammerman, N.

The challenges of pluralism: Locating religion in a world of diversity. Social Compass, 57 2 , — CrossRef Google Scholar. Appadurai, A. The capacity to aspire: Culture and the terms of recognition. Walton Eds. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

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Google Scholar. Butler, J. Giving an account of oneself. New York: Fordham University Press. Capps, D. Agents of hope: A pastoral psychology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Cobb, M.

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Swift, C. Introduction to chaplaincy studies. In: Swift, C. Todd Eds. A handbook of chaplaincy studies: Understanding spiritual care in public places. Farnham: Ashgate. Doehring, C. The practice of pastoral care: A postmodern approach. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Drescher, K. When horror and loss intersect: Traumatic experiences and traumatic bereavement. Pastoral Psychology, 59 , — Dueck, A.

Expiation, substitution and surrender: Levinasian implications for psychotherapy. Pastoral Psychology, 55 , — Ethics, alterity, and psychotherapy: A Levinasian perspective. Fitchett, G. Making our case s. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, 17 1—2 , 3— Frankl, V. Boston: Beacon Press. Freeman, M. The priority of the other: Thinking and living beyond the self. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Listening to the claims of experience: Psychology and the question of transcendence. Pastoral Psychology, 63 , — Geertz, C.

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The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books. He argues that the majority of Muslim scholars since the 19th century have blindly imitated the Western philosophical tradition in its secular approach that defines man as a rational animal placing rationality as the highest human attribute leaving no room for religious tradition in the public sphere.

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For Abderrahmane reasoning is simply one of many actions. He argues that the supremacy of reason has led to a strict binarism that characterizes Western secular modernity and its philosophical core that holds reason opposes revelation and religion opposes politics.

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  4. These oppositional binaries characterize the division of man from his true nature as a holistic being. The core of his intellectual message is to restore this unity. His intellectual project begins from a teleological position of man as an ethical animal. Man and ethics emerge simultaneously. Furthermore he insists that without religion there are no ethics. These core arguments construct his central thesis. There is no man without ethics, and no ethics without religion. He sees these three domains: man, ethics and religion as a single unified ontological field.

    After defining the ontological difference on the concept of man between the West and Islam, Abderrahmane provides his framework of Islamic rationality in contrast to Western secular rationality. He criticizes the Western concept of reason as a reason that possesses freedom in choosing a means to an end for achieving its goals without the obstacle of first asking the ethical question.

    It only requires that the purposes chosen will be engaged in objectively. This secular ideal of objectivity replaces the traditional value of ethics centered in religion. In the modern era, objectivity becomes the central value. In contrast to what he describes as the limited rationality of the Western tradition Abderrahmane insists three types of reason exist. Western reason not only describes material objects and physical processes, but also makes value judgments in the areas of law, society and morality through the second type of reason, guided reason common referred to in the Western tradition as practical reason.

    Supported reason focuses on understanding internal identity. It is in this third type of reason that ethics and asking the ethical question precedes the use of reason as an instrument. First, by ethics he means the quest for good that as previously mentioned distinguishes man from any other species. Second, he insists that ethics must be at the core of every decision and action that man makes, for without ethics man devolves from man to animal. Abstract ethics and guided ethics match to abstract and guided practical reason in that they are separate from religion and do not require ethical questions in exercising them as a human capacity.

    Supported ethics consists of four guiding principles. First, the principle of obligation means ethics as the true essence of man is an essential requirement for action to be fully human action. This feeling of obligation operates as an internal spiritual authority of motivation for taking action. Second, the principle of reproduction means that ethics does not necessarily reproduce in the same manner spatio-temporally.

    Ethics can take a different form according to the place, time, or consequences in which a human manifests ethics into action. Rather than limiting ethics to literal code the principle of reproduction interprets ethics as an expansive embracive state of being. Third, the principle of organization further emphasizes the expansiveness of ethics in that ethical acts are inclusive and mutually reinforcing.

    Ethical action begets ethical action. The fourth and final principle of expansion serves as a cumulative principle in that the three preceding principles create in man the inability to conceive of a space or time where one can act unethically. All points in space and time become stages for ethical enactment. The enactment of ethics finds its foundation in three fundamentals.

    A system of belief or religion without a practice reduces ethics to an empty intellectual pursuit. Second, the expansive nature of the principles of reproduction, organization and expansion are ideal expressions of the divine that ethical practice strives toward. These divine ideals are the attributes that humans in their limited material existence inhabit to approach a consistency of living with their status as ethical beings. Finally, in light of the divine, perfect nature of the ethical ideals man needs a concrete example for imitation. In the case of Islam the life of the prophet provides the singular exemplar.

    In this scheme reason and action are but means to activate and manifest the divine in the physical world. Religion becomes the ethical path that guides rationality in seeking the good of man. Abderrahmane developed an answer to the question of ethics he directed towards Western secular modernity in his book, The Spirit of Modernity: An Introduction to Founding an Islamic Modernity by employing the themes he first articulated in Religious Practice and the Renewal of Reason.

    In this work he conceptualizes an Islamic modernity based upon his expanded ethical theory that he poses as counter narrative to Western secular modernity built upon abstract reason and a public discursive space devoid of religion. He expands his critique of the Western secular tradition by including a critique of the effects of globalization on human society. He identifies three pests or ills created by a rapidly expanding hegemony of Western secular modernity. He refers to these ills as sovereign global controls that infect two areas of human life.

    The first sovereign global control shapes economic life by valuing capitalism over the principle of charity. Second globalizing Western secular modernity prefers technical knowledge to a broader human conception of knowledge. The desire of technology drives manufacturing, communication, society and culture where knowledge becomes a mere instrument in the pursuit of material progress. For him these ills damage the spirit of modernity, which he also refers to as the essence of modernity. Arguing from a multiple modernities paradigm he insists that non-Western traditions have the right to engage in a critical discourse with the West for this spirit.

    With that right Abderrahmane creates a conception of an Islamic modernity that places man as ethical animal at its center. His vision of an Islamic modernity intends on combatting the ills created by Western secular modernity. He first deconstructs Western secular modernity to find its essence, its spirit, its soul, its essential attributes. He then reconstructs these core essences through an interpretative framework based upon his metaphysical starting point of man as an ethical animal.

    The ethical society mirrors the ethical man. He replaces abstract reason as the central defining determinant in society for action with his concept of supported ethics. He neither rejects reason completely, nor does he seek a wholesale importation of Western secular modernity.