Sunday, January 09, 2005

Dr. V speaks! the Panikkar hit job

Dr. Vallicella takes issue with Panikkar's statement, "The relativity of beliefs does not mean their relativism." Having read Dr. Vallicella's critique, I would say that Panikkar phrased his idea poorly.

I'd like to defend Panikkar by saying he's less a philosopher and more a theologian, given to writing poetically, but (1) most theologians are trained in philosophy (to some degree or other), and (2) Panikkar himself does tend to use plenty of technical terms (often untranslated from their original languages; The Intrareligious Dialogue is a smorgasbord of Latin, Greek, romanized Sanksrit, and romanized Chinese), so I can't defend him.

Here's the paragraph in which Panikkar's claim appears:

I am not simplistically saying that all beliefs are merely expressions of one and the same faith because faith without belief does not exist-- not for those who believe. We are not logos alone, but the logos is something more than the mere instrument of us. This is why to speak of the transcendent unity of religions is true as long as it does not remain the immanent 'truth' of the different religious traditions under discussion. The relativity of beliefs does not mean their relativism. Our human task is to establish a religious dialogue that, although it transcends the logos-- and belief-- does not neglect or ignore them.

[Panikkar, Raimon. The Intrareligious Dialogue. New York: Paulist Press, 1999. Citation is from p. 57.]

I take relativism to refer to an attitude, while relativity refers to a brute fact-- things-in-relation. I think Panikkar is saying that the multiplicity of religious belief systems doesn't entail that they are all absolutely equal, as a relativist might claim. Panikkar is a religious pluralist, but not a pluralist willing to grant equal status to all religions without examination: some religious systems might actually be objectively better than others.

A final note: I'm happy to report that Dr. Vallicella is using the adjective "Lonerganian" as a swear word-- which is how we Catholic U. grad students understood it. Heh.


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