Levinas and Two Ways of Approaching the World

Emmanuel Levinas was a Lithuanian Jew who lived from 1906 to 1995, and studied under some of the most influential thinkers in Europe. He later moved to France and authored one of the most exciting and original philosophies of the 20th Century. He lived for a time as a prisoner of war during World War 2. After the war he responded with force against what he saw as the movement of western philosophy.

In Contrast with Western Philosophy

What is Western philosophy? Western philosophy traces its ancestry to ancient Europe, to countries such as Greece and Rome. It is the philosophy that you and I are already familiar with. It permeates our thoughts, ideas, and even how we make sense of the world. In Western philosophy, truth is generally considered to be the unchanging, foundational principles of the Universe. Philosophy itself is thought to be the method of reducing the flux of everyday experience to a set of static principles. For Western philosophy, there is no loss in this “reduction,” because we are making the world intelligible, or reducing the chaos we find in experience to unchanging unity.

In simple terms, in order to be truth, it has to be true everywhere, all of the time. Mathematical abstractions are the perfect example of Western truth. The equation c2 = a2 + b2 seems to be true everywhere and everytime, regardless of the particular circumstances, and thus Pythagoras and subsequent Greek philosophers regarded it as truth. Thus, for Western thinking, all things that are dynamic, that are in motion, and that change can be accounted for by the few things that fundamentally do not change. The few things that are always the same govern or explain the many things that are in flux.

A perfect example of this Western way of thinking is Continue reading

Marriage, part 5: Defending marriage, defending charity

This is the final post in a five-part series on marriage, in case that wasn’t obvious in the title.

Thus far I have tried to make a case for difference in marriage, arguing that without confronting the fundamental differences symbolized by the sexual unity of male and female, we are less able to understand fully what it means to be charitable. In this final post, I will argue that defending marriage – and by association, charity – requires we defend difference.

Thus far, Latter-day Saints have put a lot of money and rhetoric into defending marriage, in particular against gay marriage. Perhaps the most notable example of this was the church’s recent campaign for Prop 8 in California. Though Prop 8 passed, we have seen since its passage that this “victory” for marriage cost more than just a lot of money. For the Latter-day Saint church in particular, the victory bordered on a public relations nightmare, with a lot of hate generated against the organization and its membership. Even worse, perhaps, was the division it caused within the membership.

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Marriage, part 4: The sin of Sodom

This post is the fourth in a five-part series of posts about – you guessed it – marriage.

To sum up my argument so far, I began this series of posts discussing differences and why we ought to value them. I then discussed that teaching children to value difference in others begins in the home, where two parents of different descent love each other for their differences (not to say, also, their similarities). Previous to this post, I argued that married couples engage in what I called a ritual of difference, wherein they realize a full expression of the infinity of their relationship – made up in part of their differences – and are better situated to have charity for one another, as well as for others. I would like to turn now to the sin of Sodom and draw all three posts together. Continue reading

Marriage, part 3: Ritual of difference

This post is a continuation of a five-part series on Marriage. Access part one here; access part two here.

In the last post, I argued that teaching our children charity was facilitated by the love parents share in the face of differences. In being one body (one flesh), as Paul taught, we must embrace our differences – otherwise, where were the hearing?

In this post, I want to address a particular difference (or set of differences) which many married couples experience on a regular basis. I’m talking in particular about “knowing” one another in the biblical sense (e.g., “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived…“). I am not trying to be coy about using the word “sex.” For my purposes, I feel that knowing is the most appropriate word.

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Marriage, part 2: Teaching our children charity

This post is a follow-up from “Marriage, part 1: Why difference matters.” Three more related posts will follow.

In the previous post, I argued that differences were actually essential for a spirit of charity to thrive in marriage. In seeking out and embracing these differences, we learn to love that which is other than us – and by love, I mean in part to appreciate and embrace the unique contribution made by those differences.

Charity, as Paul says, “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). The truth is, we (husbands and wives) are different, and to have charity, we must rejoice in those differences. Doing so has the benefit of uniting us, as I discussed before. In this post, I’d like to discuss another benefit through a semi-narrative.

Imagine two people perpetually in conflict with one another. Let us say their conflicts are sometimes not particularly contentious, but do (as they must) get heated every once in a while. Now, in spite of how those conflicts play out (i.e., whether they are resolved or not), imagine that these two people also love each other with complete fidelity – that they are desperately faithful to one another. We might even see their love for one another manifested during conflicts.

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Marriage, part 1: Why difference matters

This is the first in a five-part series on marriage, wherein I discuss charity in marriage, why the gay community should favor marriage between a man and a woman, and why Latter-day Saints are not positioned well to defend against gay marriage.

In all three scriptural accounts of the physical creation, Adam is created of the dust of the earth, while Eve was created of Adam (Genesis 2:7, 21-22; Moses 3:7, 21-22; Abraham 5:7, 15-16). Adam, upon seeing woman for the first time, notes the significance of this division when he calls woman bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. What is striking to me is what Adam says next: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (v. 24 in Genesis and Moses, emphasis mine). Were they not already one flesh before God removed the rib from Adam’s side?

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Why Mormons Should Be the Most Environmentally Friendly People on Earth

We had an excellent Sunday School lesson today in my ward about the Creation, which focused primarily on our stewardship for the earth and for all of God’s creations.

Here are some great quotes (most of which were distributed from my ward’s gospel doctrine teacher) that illustrate just a taste of why, I believe, Latter-day Saints should be the most environmentally friendly people on earth. Continue reading