Lo speciale “Quel che resta di Ratisbona” è a cura di Gabriele Palasciano. Un testo di John Milbank*.
Religion alone delivers order as legitimation and ritually patterned control: thus after the collapse of the unified European order which was Christendom, various contested simulacra of Christendom perforce had to succeed it, and these all remained for the most part religious, right up to the most recent times. In this sense, God has only now returned because he never went away, even if he has remained sometimes half-concealed behind pragmatic political arrangements not fully conceding their ultimately religious legitimation. However, the bloody ideological divisions that ensued upon the French Revolution led to an intensification of the earlier British attempt to mediate and override religious divisions in the name of Science and Reason. Now, with Auguste Comte (arguably the most important and influential thinker of modern times, though this is infrequently recognised), the quasi-religious and ‘negative’ abstract idealism of enlightenment, looking for ‘emancipation’ in the name of rights etc, is abandoned by many in the name of a purely ‘positive’ cult of what is factually apparent and pragmatically works. In an exacerbation of Hobbes to the point of abandonment of his liberal solution, order is despaired of and so traditional religion refused. Instead, only power and the means of power remains (Nietszsche being but a variant of this). However, since order continues to be inescapably an exigency, a cult is to be made of power itself; the wielders of power are also to rule and to ensure integration around their expertise and their promotion of ‘the human’ as the possibility of this power over nature, within and yet beyond nature herself.
Only with the invention of positivism, for political and ideological reasons, does any ‘conflict’ between science and religion historically begin, and it remains an entirely political conflict. And indeed it was not the only reaction to enlightenment: alongside positivism came also and in rivalry evangelical, pietist, Catholic and Orthodox revivals throughout the 19th C. There were also important hybrids: positivism itself was a curious inversion of the occasionalism, ontologism and voluntarism of post-revolution Catholic reaction and later, as with Action Franҫaise, this inversion was re-inverted: where power has once been sanctified, it can be rebaptised by a voluntarist and intégriste theology as after all religious order. […]
*John Milbank is Professor Emeritus of the University of Nottingham. He previously held a Research Chair at Nottingham, a named Chair at Virginia, a Readership and Fellowship of Peterhouse at Cambridge, and a Teaching Fellowship at Lancaster universities. He is a theologian, philosopher, political theorist, poet and journalist. His most well-known book is Theology and Social Theory and his most recent (with Adrian Pabst), The Politics of Virtue.