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The Golden Cord

A Short Book on the Secular and the Sacred

Charles Taliaferro

Publication Year: 2012

The title of Charles Taliaferro’s book is derived from poems and stories in which a person in peril or on a quest must follow a cord or string in order to find the way to happiness, safety, or home. In one of the most famous of such tales, the ancient Greek hero Theseus follows the string given him by Ariadne to mark his way in and out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth. William Blake's poem “Jerusalem” uses the metaphor of a golden string, which, if followed, will lead one to heaven itself. Taliaferro extends Blake’s metaphor to illustrate the ways we can link what we see, feel, and do with deep spiritual realities. Taliaferro offers a foundational case for the recognition of the experience of the eternal God of Christianity, in which God is understood as the fount of all goodness and the subject and object of our best love, revealed through scripture, tradition, philosophical reflection, and encountered in everyday events. He addresses philosophical obstacles to the recognition of such experiences, especially objections from the “new atheists,” and explores the values involved in thinking and experiencing God as eternal. These include the belief that the eternal goodness of God subordinates temporal goods, such as the pursuit of fame and earthly glory; that God is the essence of life; and that the eternal God hallows domestic goods, blessing the everyday goods of ordinary life. An exploration of the moral and spiritual riches of the Christian tradition as an alternative to materialism and naturalism, The Golden Cord brings an originality and depth to the debate in accessible and engaging prose.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

I am deeply grateful for the patience, graciousness, support, and encouragement of the University of Notre Dame Press’s senior editor, Charles Van Hof. For help in preparing the manuscript and for editorial comments and research, I am in debt to Tricia Little, Olivia James, Therese Cotter, Rebecca Dyer...

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pp. 1-14

A woman once told the author of For Whom the Bell Tolls and Death in the Afternoon, Ernest Hemingway, that she preferred stories with happy endings. Hemingway is said to have replied: “Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true storyteller who would keep that from you.”1 It certainly...

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Chapter 1: Love in the Physical World

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pp. 15-40

When I was in my twenties, a graduate student at Harvard University and not yet midway on life’s journey, I attended a philosophy seminar on the nature of language, with a focus on metaphor. The professor requested that we come up with a sentence that expressed obvious nonsense. The usual example employed...

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Chapter 2: Selves and Bodies

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pp. 41-60

As we have seen in the opening chapter, there is some discord in contemporary philosophical work on consciousness and experience. It is not at all easy to eliminate consciousness from our inquiries nor, once admitted, is it easy to place it in a thoroughgoing physical world. David Chalmers offers this succinct...

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Chapter 3: Some Big Pictures

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pp. 61-80

At the beginning of this book I introduced a school of philosophers, the Cambridge Platonists, who in the seventeenth century advanced the Christian faith with a supreme focus on the good, the true, and the beautiful. For them, an experiential grasp of divine love animates and expands one’s love of nature. In...

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Chapter 4: Some Real Appearances

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pp. 81-106

In 2011, I attended a philosophy conference in Hong Kong. Near the end of three days of meetings, we—a group of Chinese and American philosophers— were dining at a restaurant overlooking the port. It turned out to be a very non–Virginia Woolf dinner party and much more like that summer night..

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Chapter 5: Is God Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know?

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pp. 107-130

During a philosophy conference at Macalester College, a young man was presenting a paper on the problem of evil. There was something detached and aloof about the way he set the problem before us: “Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that there is a triple-A God.” By this, he explained, he referred to...

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Chapter 6: Redemption and Time

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pp. 131-144

I know some people who claim that they have no regrets in life at all. And Nietzsche has often been interpreted as claiming that redemption is achieved when a person wills (or accepts) his life just as it is (or has been). This idea is utterly foreign to me. While I do not spend ages in deep, stressful, agonizing...

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Chapter 7: Eternity in Time

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pp. 145-162

In the first chapter I referred to the claim by one of my graduate school philosophy professors that “gravity is a manifestation of love” is obvious nonsense. My project so far has been to build a case for a view of God and the world that is distinct...

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Chapter 8: Glory and the Hallowing of Domestic Virtue

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pp. 163-178

Consider G. K. Chesterton’s delightful account of divine reveling in the context of his study of the works of Charles Dickens. Nothing could be further from the dinner party of Woolf ’s To the Lighthouse. I cite Chesterton at length:..


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pp. 179-196


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pp. 197-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780268093778
E-ISBN-10: 0268093776
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268042387
Print-ISBN-10: 0268042381

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 823729909
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Golden Cord

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Subject Headings

  • God (Christianity).
  • Life -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Self -- Religious aspects -- Christianity
  • Redemption -- Christianity.
  • Cambridge Platonism.
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