Saturday, 12 September 2009

Yeah I'll Do It

We all grow old, though in his seventies Don Cupitt hasn't obviously lost enough of his brain cells to make a difference to his recall. But here is an interesting change, extracted by Alan MacFarlane. For so long he has emphasised the changes in his thinking: this phase and then that. Now, suddenly, he sees that so much of it has been alike. I've always thought that my own thinking and outlook has been alike, really, so the only problem has been institutional. I tend to 'question out' institutions. Cupitt later says he's never had to produce a CV like you do today and never had to sell himself: he was just taken up by this institution and that as they filled their numbers from the people in their walk of institutional life: he said Cambridge is a good youth club and old people's home. It is a lost world - just lost. But, anyway, I particularly like how he forms these thoughts into now seeing a consistency where your own life's output is your autobiography.

Kant and Kierkegaard were becoming the main influence; they still were in the 1960s when I didn't respond very warmly to John Robinson 'Honest to God'; I knew him quite well, but thought the 1960s radicals too keen to humanize God; at that time I was still very high orthodox; it is often hard to reconstruct one's own thinking in retrospect; when I read one of my old books again I am surprised how much of my later thinking is already in it, on the other hand, at that time I wouldn't have read them in that way and wouldn't have seen it; as the years pass, some things become more salient in your thinking and some less, as the arrangement of thoughts in your head changes; although it seems to me that my thinking has changed radically all my life, often quite recent thoughts are already to be seen in my early stuff; the whole notion of what our mental development is and how it takes place is rather mysterious to me; I have called my writing a 'projet fleuve' and you are meant to understand the whole thing as a kind of personal story because I don't believe that any human being will ever again be able to suppose that he has caught the whole of reality in a single system of thought; once you introduce a time dimension, once you think of everything as relative, transient, flowing, a 'projet fleuve' is all you can do, and this is how it has seemed to me over the period from the 1960s to now when I have been writing; my books are the only autobiography I can produce; I don't really know why I have travelled this way; I don't believe in metaphysics any more but I do believe in writing as an attempt to describe one's own journey; I have sometimes said, “Would anybody like to take up my project and continue from me as I lose the ability to continue with it?”; one or two people might want to try to do that; so instead of writing traditional, systematic, philosophy or theology, I have done a sort of confessional engagement with my own times - a kind of spiritual autobiography which has documented how someone like me has changed over these generations...

I'm curious about the text offered here. There is an element of conversation, of taking Don Cupitt back occasionally, and some words are suggested - like "thin religion" when Don had said "thick religion" for the likes of C. S. Lewis. So Don takes up the wording, but if I was making these notes I would put my own contribution in and also aim for more precision in more exactly his words - there is a little compression in places. The semi-colon approach is interesting; I think I would try to 'sentence them up' without trying to overplay a sense of perfect speech and diction.

Yes, I'd take up Don Cupitt's project. I'm a more sociological in approach but have pretty much the same conclusions.

By the way, a project fleuve is a project of a long novel, and a roman‐fleuve is a river-novel with a central character and characters running through them, though each can be read alone, like in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time which consisted of twelve novels between 1951 and 1975. So Don Cupitt's long series of books are his river novel, where each book can be read alone but they all form his autobiography of thought.

5 comments:

Fr Mark said...

Thanks so much for posting this up. The interview took me back 25 years to his TV series, which was a big influence on me deciding to read theology at university. Now I pass a memorial to Kierkegaard every day on my way into work in Copenhagen!

john said...

I've read some Cupitt and talked a fair amount to a friend who is (perhaps, was) a fan. I don't understand at all why he is regarded by you or anyone else as a profound thinker. He says he's given up on the metaphysics, but when I read him, he seems committed to a sort of materialism which takes no account at all of various sorts of physics (let alone metaphysics). As far as I can see, he doesn't begin to engage (a) with Keith Ward type stuff about consciousness and physics; (b) that combination of the Big Bang and arguments derived from philosophy - both Classical and modern - about first causes which gives some sort of theoretical underpinning to belief in God. I do not say such arguments are compelling: but I do object if (correct me if I'm wrong) he just doesn't consider them.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

The question here is whether what Keith Ward says about science actually says anything in relation to the Christian God, and whether it is a support. I don't think so. At best it might say something about basic rules in the evolved universe that you can equate with God if you want. Why should Don Cupitt relate that to something he might call 'the religious life'. The religious life is something dynamic and compelling, which here uses the language of 'thin' and elsewhere 'high and dry' and also the notion of expression in everyday speech. This is not about cosmic speculation.

john said...

Afraid I find your reply on several levels evasive.

hugh said...

Thats concisely put Adrian . Whilst the quick flow of Cupitts philosophy over the last 20 years or so has often lost my attention . I have always been , and remain , an admirer . Especially now that his latest thinking has connected around to his earlier work .

You should go for it ...


Regards ...

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