The fella says here
Stanley Fish is being tricksy, as he generally is, but it’s a pretty crude form of tricksiness for a supposedly sophisticated literary ‘theorist,’ especially one who is reputed to have seen through Everything at least forty years ago.
He’s comparing secularism with its opposite by setting out what he takes to be their respective views.
Let those who remain captives of ancient superstitions and fairy tales have their churches, chapels, synagogues, mosques, rituals and liturgical mumbo-jumbo; just don’t confuse the (pseudo)knowledge they traffic in with the knowledge needed to solve the world’s problems.
This picture is routinely challenged by those who contend that secular reasons and secular discourse in general don’t tell the whole story; they leave out too much of what we know to be important to human life.
No they don’t, is the reply; everything said to be left out can be accounted for by the vocabularies of science, empiricism and naturalism; secular reasons can do the whole job.
Oh? Everything can be accounted for by the vocabularies of science, empiricism and naturalism? That’s the secular reply? I don’t believe it. I think most people clever enough to be secularist are also clever enough to realize that not everything can be accounted for, no matter what the vocabulary.
He goes on to make heavy weather of the difference between facts and values, and a book on the subject by one Steven Smith, and a brief acknowledgement that Hume got there first – and then abruptly ends with a sweeping claim that he hasn’t actually justified.
But no matter who delivers the lesson, its implication is clear. Insofar as modern liberal discourse rests on a distinction between reasons that emerge in the course of disinterested observation — secular reasons — and reasons that flow from a prior metaphysical commitment, it hasn’t got a leg to stand on.
And the bell rings and the students rush off to Beginning French.