Sunday, July 16, 2006

Raskolnikov and Nietzsche Have Compassion on a Beaten Animal

A few odds and ends from the day:

Exodus chp. 34 seems to have some bearing on a recent discussion at the Lonergan Institute on St. Augustine's discussion in De Trinitate of what the Scripture meant when it says that Moses saw God. It was this one I remembered without chapter and verse which seems to show an unbroken narrative of Moses seeing God and then his countenance being transformed by the experience. Although I would be loathe to disagree with Augustine on the doctrinal stance about seeing God I am do not find his exposition of this to ring true. However, in this passage the text does seem to emphasize Moses's hearing God rather than his seeing Him and it says God came down in a cloud. It says however that God stood by him and the effect is the resplendence of Moses countenance that is too bright for the Israelites to bear.

v.20 "No one shall appear before me empty handed." It occurs to me that there is a passage regarding King David in which he apparently shows abeyance to this verse in his pious appropriation of this statement from the Pentateuch.

I have been listening to selections from a wonderful cache of speeches at the Veritas Forum. Included among these are several speeches made by Dr. William Edgar which I have found quite good, in particular "A Biblical Theology of Entertainment" and "The Revenge of the Aesthetic".

An interesting point in the later is that apparently a number of infamous postmodern philosophers including Derrida have recently agreed in arguing against relativism when it came to beauty. As Edgar points out, Doestoevsky predicted that "Beauty will save the world." Is it possible that this is along the lines of what Doestoevsky meant? I will have to pull this fish in with this thread as much as I can in the coming days. I am convinced that Doestoevsky saw things that provided essential answers or guideposts to modern man past the impasse and quagmire of Nietzsche.

I also find it fascinating that the powerful dream remembrance of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment of his childhood compassion for a cruelly beaten donkey, in which he collapsed in tearful embrace of the dieing beast, juxtaposed with the murderer that he had become as an adult, resembles the collapse of Nietzsche, who's mystique of mercilessness was abrupted when he ran outside and tearfully embraced a horse that was being beaten by its master. It is from this point that Nietzsche's descent into madness is generally thought to have begun. Did this occur in Doestoevsky's lifetime, before the publishing of Crime and Punishment? I wonder if Doestoevsky knew of this? Or perhaps there is just an uncanny correspondence here. In any case, it is especially resonant to me because I believe that Doestoevsky powerfully conveyed the way to freedom past the "intellectual swindlers" of the day and specifically that he compassionately showed the way past Nietzsche's saccharine lies by a greater authenticity. Nietzsche himself said of Doestoevsky that he was the only psychologist that he had anything to learn from. Would that he had learned more!

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