From Unification Thought to Unification Philosophy

the-thinker

By Keisuke Noda

Keisuke_NodaUnification Thought, as systematized by the late Dr. Sang Hun Lee, is currently the only major “philosophical” exposition of the Divine Principle in the Unification Movement. While some appreciate Unification Thought, others find its contents puzzling. I am both fascinated and perplexed by Unification Thought. In this article, I articulate some critical areas to be explored in transitioning from Unification Thought (UT) to Unification Philosophy.

Self-examination

What is the heart of philosophical discourse? It is self-examination. Many may recall from high school or college the Socratic method or the emphasis on self-examination. Self-examination is intrinsic to the discipline of philosophy. Philosophy examines its points of departure, presuppositions, approaches, and processes of reasoning. It questions and tries to justify its own discourse: why, how, and where it can start, proceed, and finally conclude.

UT lacks in the area of self-examination. It is a reiteration of various truth-claims from the Divine Principle (DP) with some additional truth-claims. It presupposes various assumptions from the DP without critically examining them.

In philosophy, the reader does not necessarily share the same assumptions with the author. Yet, readers can learn from and gain irrefutable insight through the author’s rigorous process of reasoning. For this reason, non-believers can enjoy reading Augustine and gain invaluable insight and theists can learn from reading Nietzsche and Sartre, who were radical atheists. Readers learn more from honest and sharp critiques than mediocre apologetics.

The lack of critical self-examination is the most glaring deficiency of Unification Thought, which therefore makes it unattractive to some readers.

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Challenges of Life: Why and How?

mountain-climbing-wallpaper-2

By Keisuke Noda

Keisuke_NodaHuman life is enigmatic. A variety of challenges falls unexpectedly on an individual and life can seem absurd. There are religious and scientific explanations, but we still wonder: Why? How do we make sense of the challenges we face in life?

This article attempts to shed light on this extremely complex problem by answering the questions of why we have challenges and how we can cope with them.

The most common approach to challenges in Unificationism is based on the concept of “indemnity.” The underlying thesis of this model is that challenges are “caused” by sins, evils, and problems from the past. Other religions also use this sin-redemption approach to challenge.  This model is one that looks backwards in time, but is this retrospective approach the only model that Unificationism offers?

I suggest that a model based on the Unificationist concept of the “original human nature” sets out a forward-looking model.  I argue that human life is “originally” designed as challenge-and-response.  In other words, some challenges (not all) are an intrinsic part of life.

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Moral Autonomy of the Blessed Couple/Family

Family

By Keisuke Noda

Keisuke_NodaThe radical nature of an idea is often exhibited by its power to transform our framework of thinking. As the word “radical” indicates (radix means “root” in Latin), a radical idea requires us to reexamine fundamental presuppositions we take for granted.

One radical concept in Rev. Moon’s philosophy is the Blessed Couple/Family. Marriage is generally understood as a social, religious, and legal union of a husband and a wife, which generates moral and legal obligations between them and their immediate family members. Marriage in the ordinary sense does not imply a change in the relationship between married individuals and God. Even within most religious traditions, which recognize marriage as sacred, a marriage blessed by God (or gods) does not alter in any way the relationship between human beings and God. Marriage is nothing more than another happy life event.

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A Challenge for the Divine Principle in the Postmodern Era

Facebook Connectivity 2010

A 2010 map displaying the connectivity of Facebook’s 1.1 billion global users (click to enlarge).

Keisuke Noda, Professor of Philosophy, Barrytown College of UTS

Keisuke_NodaCan the Divine Principle be attractive to others in the 21st century, or at least for the next 10 or 20 years as our Church’s 2020 goals envision? In Unificationist communities, that question has sparked the development of practical or technological methods of communication/presentation. People have created and re-crafted charts, slides, and PowerPoint presentations and will continue to do so.

The development of these materials is certainly a worthy endeavor, but another way to pose this question is to ask how the Principle answers the questions of the era or the “spirit of the time” (Zeitgeist). Although believers claim that religious teachings reflect truth that is eternal, ideas affirm their validity by responding to the questions of the era. Leading ideas must in fact “lead” the time by demonstrating their validity to people who are desperately trying to find their way. Thus, Unificationists must understand the intellectual climate that we live in if the Principle is to become a leading idea.

During the late 20th century, the United States and other developed countries underwent a major shift rooted in the comprehensive critique of modernity. It is imperative for any intellectual to understand this shift and the intellectual horizons that frame the climate today, known as postmodernism.

What Is Postmodernism?

Postmodernism is a concept that describes a general intellectual stance or tendency towards modernity. As the term post (“after”) modernism indicates, postmodernism is a departure from modernism based on a critical assessment of modernity. It is, in essence, skepticism towards basic assumptions of modernity. Postmodernism is a broad term which encompasses all social cultural spheres including architecture, art, literature, literary criticism, business, management, politics, economics, philosophy, religion, and others. It is a term that can be seen as describing the spirit of the age (Zeitgeist). Postmodernism is distinguished from being just a “trend” because of its lasting and penetrating effects on all spheres of life.

Modernity, as postmodernists see it, is a social, cultural, political wave that lasted for centuries, from the Enlightenment to the late 20th century. Despite the diverse views and ideas encompassed within modernity, modernity was based on certain assumptions that postmodernists later questioned.  Postmodern thinkers have taken a variety of approaches, but the following are a few basic criticisms of modernity by Jean-François Lyotard, a French philosopher.

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A Step Toward a “Unity” of Science and Religion

Dawkins Book

by Keisuke Noda, Professor of Philosophy, Barrytown College of UTS

Keisuke_NodaThe “unity” of science and religion is one of the central theses of Unificationism. In the Divine Principle, the “unity” of science and religion is discussed as one of the characteristics of “new truth” disclosed by the Principle. In practice, beginning in 1972, Rev. Moon held a series of International Conferences on the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS) in order to bridge science and religion. The sciences include natural, social, and human sciences, and religion includes Judeo-Christian and Islamic monotheism, non-Western religions, and various spiritual paths. Both in theory and practice, Unificationism seeks the integration of all knowledge within a theistic framework and the idea of a “unity” of science and religion  is part of this endeavor.

Recent atheist movements led by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have been undermining religion on the basis of “science.” Religious apologetics similarly attempt to justify their beliefs based upon “science.” Before we approach the question of the “unity” of science and religion, we need to clarify the nature of scientific knowledge as well as that of religious knowledge.

I challenge the popular belief that science is interpretation-free, a-historical, non-social knowledge, and argue that both science and religion have interpretive dimensions (whether there is any knowledge free from interpretation is a separate and open question). If science and religion are two types of interpretive theories, their frameworks of interpretation, including presuppositions and assumptions, require rigorous scrutiny. The hermeneutic structure of human understanding, the dynamic part-and-whole relationship between each element and the framework of interpretation, may be the most fundamental element in any human understanding.

What Does the “Unity’” of Science and Religion Mean?

There are two contrasting attitudes towards religion: one apologetic and another anti-religious. Others are somewhere in-between. Religious people often take an apologetic stance and try to find supportive evidence in the sciences. For them, “unity” means compatibility between or a justification of faith by science.

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Mind-Body Unity: Beyond an Ethical Approach

kids-playing

By Keisuke Noda, Professor of Philosophy, Barrytown College of UTS

Keisuke_NodaMind-body unity is one of the central concepts in Unificationism. It is often construed within ethical contexts as the control of bodily desires by reason/will, or sometimes as a formation of virtuous character. There is great value in other approaches to mind-body unity beyond the dominant rationalist ethical model. I discuss two valuable ones, the Depth Psychology of Carl Jung, who tackled psychic problems, and from Flow theory by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer of positive psychology.

Ethical Approach

Mind-body unity is commonly understood as an ethical issue. The most popular perspective is to understand the unity of mind-body as control of bodily desires by rational understanding of moral principles and/or the will. Faith is often added to enhance moral commitment. When one places the mind-body issue within a traditional ethical framework, one is led to interpret the issue within the framework of dichotomy between reason/will and the rest. The task of “unity” is understood as how to subordinate non-rational elements of the self (bodily desires and emotions) to reason/will. Within this framework, the problem is construed as a lack of or weakness of will or reason. The remedy is consequently understood as having stronger commitment or will and clearer understanding of truth.

However, the biggest problem is this framework itself. Within this framework, love, which is central to the unity of mind-body in Unificationism, loses its core role. Overemphasis of reason/will in dominant ethical traditions tends to devalue love as an “irrational” element that is hostile to reason.

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