Thursday, 30 April 2020

Coleridge and Orthopraxis


A quick and dirty definition. Orthopraxis is what the faithful of other religions get up to, those mindless routines they feel will leave them within the ranks of the righteous. The imputation, though never stated, is that they follow codes of conduct which have only a slight connection with doctrine. From what does this invidious approach flow? Philosophers when they come to religion bring with them the biases of their era. Coleridge in The Statesman’s Manual characterises them thusly:

In all ages of the Christian church, and in the later period of the Jewish (that is, as soon as from their acquaintance first with the Oriental and afterwards with the Greek philosophy the precursory and preparative influences of the Gospel began to work) there have existed individuals (Laodiceans in spirit, Minims in faith, and nominalists in philosophy) who mistake outlines for substance, and distinct images for clear conceptions ; with whom therefore not to be a thing is the same as not to be at all.

Mr. Locke is regarded as a chief culprit or as one whose philosophy blights a true reading of the Bible. He continues:

The contempt, in which such persons hold the works and doctrines of all theologians before Grotius, and of all philosophers before Locke and Hartley (at least before Bacon and Hobbes) is not accidental, nor yet altogether owing to that epidemic of a proud ignorance occasioned by a diffused sciolism, which gave a sickly and hectic shewiness to the latter half of the last century.

Can we get at the true inner meaning of religion its doctrine and practice if our definition of evidence only accepts what can be discerned with the senses. The inner impetus to action is opaque to us. Condillac who was influenced by Locke is mocked by Coleridge:

The former has an Idea, that Hume, Hartley, and Condillac have exploded all Ideas, but those of sensation ; he has an Idea that he was particularly pleased with the fine idea of the last-named Philosopher, that there is no absurdity in asking. What colour Virtue is of? inasmuch as the proper philosophic answer would be black, blue, or bottle-green, according as the coat, waistcoat and small-clothes might chance to be of the person, the series of whose motions had excited the sensations, which formed our idea of virtue.

Does a modern empiricist philosophy darken counsel?

But all History seems to favor the persuasion, I entertain, that in every age the speculative Philosophy in general acceptance, the metaphysical opinions that happen to be predominant, will influence the Theology of that age.

2 comments:

john doyle said...

"if our definition of evidence only accepts what can be discerned with the senses. The inner impetus to action is opaque to us." Is a contrast to be drawn with flash philosophy, where the inner light blinds its seer to countervailing empirical evidence?

ombhurbhuva said...

I left a short post on this to clarify, inasmuch as one can.