Shades of gray

Simon Blackburn has fun teasing John Gray. John Gray strikes me as a great dogmatic repetitive bore, so I enjoy seeing people teasing him.

The habit of abstraction enables Gray to position himself as a lone voice against a world of fantastical optimists: “All prevailing philosoph­ies embody the fiction that ­human life can be changed at will,” he tells us sweepingly, naming no names. What? I suppose many ­philosophers do think that if you need to have a drink, you can change your life, a ­little, by doing so. Other things can be harder to do. But I challenge Gray to name a single philosopher who thinks we can change everything about our lives at will.

Oh, naming people is for pedants, it’s so much more fun to declare that they all do it. It’s the Mark Vernon school of argumentation.

In reality, Gray’s abstractions have overwhelmed his analytic faculties. Nearly all human action, including political action, goes on without paying even lip service to any gospel of Progress in the abstract…For someone so contemptuous of reason and its constructions, it must have been horrid to spend a life looking at political theories, all of which Gray despises. He does however admire some of the myths of religion. He revels in the idea of original sin, but blames Christianity for inventing the idea of salvation, or, in other words, Progress. Gray could be comfortable only in a religion with no faith, no hope, and no charity.

There, that’s Gray well teased.

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