Monday, June 7, 2010

Agape science

Following up on my previous post Scientific Theological Eros, it is interesting that in his discussion of the difference between "Eros" and "Agape" love as driving forces in theology, Barth gives the profound throw away line:

At this point the question may remain undecided whether it would not also be beneficial for the other sciences if the ruling motive of their procedure was Agape rather than Eros.

For theological work the dominant position of love is a vital and unalterable necessity. Indeed, theological work also displays that interest of the perceiving human subject and that sweeping movement in which it allows itself to be borne and hurried toward the object to be known. These elements of Eros will not be simply suppressed or eliminated in it. For theological work, however, Eros can only be the serving, not the ruling, motive. The erotic wish and desire to gain possession of the object can have in theological work only the significance of a first and inevitable beginning in the direction toward its object.
Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology, pages 201-202

As a practising scientist myself, I think Barth's insight is profound. To me, much science appears to be driven by the scientists rush to exalt himself, to control, to possess, and to tame. The object of "desire" is both nature and funding, status, .... Thus, it can be classified as "Eros" science.

In contrast, "Agape" science would be humbler and gentler. The focus is not on the scientist and not on control but on understanding and on server others (society, students, colleagues, ....). Ultimately, it is more effective because it is more objective, since the ego of the scientist does not blind him/her to the way things are rather than the way we want them to be.

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