All entries by this author

Kinds of Fundamentalism

Mar 3rd, 2003 8:03 pm | By

There is more than one kind of fundamentalism, as Terry Eagleton points out in this essay in the Guardian. Fundamentalism is not so much religious as it is textual, which means it covers a lot of ground.

Fundamentalists are those who believe that our linguistic currency is trustworthy only if it is backed by the gold standard of the Word of Words. They see God as copperfastening human meaning. Fundamentalism means sticking strictly to the script, which in turn means being deeply fearful of the improvised, ambiguous or indeterminate…Since writing is meaning that can be handled by anybody, any time, it is always profane and promiscuous. Meaning that has been written down is bound to be unhygienic…Fundamentalism is the paranoid

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Literature Subverts Dogmatism *

Mar 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

Irving Howe’s taste for the complication and open-endedness of literature played hell with his Marxist certainties. … Read the rest

Golden Rice *

Mar 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

Critics of GM are missing the point.… Read the rest

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Mar 2nd, 2003 9:08 pm | By

One of the terms the sociologist Robert Merton, who died last week, was known for was the self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s a lot of the sort of thing about. All the endless assuring each other, for instance, that rationality, secularism, skepticism, atheism are all wrong and mistaken and harmful and stupid because humans have a Deep Need for religion. We have a Longing for ‘spirituality,’ a Hunger for myth, a nostalgia for a Big Daddy to protect us. There is a god-shaped hole at the center of our consciousness and all the silly pointless time-wasting things we do are efforts to fill it. This review of Adam Sutcliffe’s Judaism and Enlightenment, for example, says as much (paraphrasing the argument of … Read the rest

Honderich Reviews Williams *

Mar 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

And does not desire to be somplace else.… Read the rest

Midgley Reviews Dennett *

Mar 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

‘He tries much harder than he has before to show that he understands the importance of our inner life.’… Read the rest

Part History Part Polemic *

Mar 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

And marred by bad arguments, Simon Wessely says of this book about science and the chemical weapons industry.… Read the rest

Galen Strawson Reviews Daniel Dennett *

Mar 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

Dennett on the evolution of freedom.… Read the rest

Postmodernism and truth

Mar 2nd, 2003 | By Daniel Dennett

Here is a story you probably haven’t heard, about how a team of American researchers
inadvertently introduced a virus into a third world country they were studying.(1)
They were experts in their field, and they had the best intentions; they thought
they were helping the people they were studying, but in fact they had never
really seriously considered whether what they were doing might have ill effects.
It had not occurred to them that a side-effect of their research might be damaging
to the fragile ecology of the country they were studying. The virus they introduced
had some dire effects indeed: it raised infant mortality rates, led to a general
decline in the health and wellbeing of women and … Read the rest

Fear of the Improvised, Ambiguous or Indeterminate *

Mar 1st, 2003 | Filed by

Writing is always profane and promiscuous, Terry Eagleton says. … Read the rest

Warning Signs of Fakery *

Mar 1st, 2003 | Filed by

We all need to be able to detect bogus claims, Robert Park says.… Read the rest

And University Students Run Amok Too *

Feb 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Debt and the equation marks=money can poison the teacher-student relation.… Read the rest

What Teachers Have to Face *

Feb 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Violent students and low-level bad behavior drive teachers out of teaching.… Read the rest

Teachers Win a Decision *

Feb 28th, 2003 | Filed by

The law lords in the UK decided teachers may refuse to teach students who have been expelled for violence then reinstated.… Read the rest

What Spinoza Knew *

Feb 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Scientific American reviews Antonio Damasio’s Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain.… Read the rest

Made not Born

Feb 27th, 2003 8:03 pm | By

I’ve been pondering this business of confusing or blurring the boundaries (see this week’s Bad Moves) between a religion and a group of people, between Judaism and Jews, Islam and Muslims, that I touched on in yesterday’s Note and Comment.

It all has to do with Identity Politics, I suppose, which is a large subject, and one we will be exploring in the future. It’s partly a generational matter. All those children of assimilated Jews who turned on their parents with cries of indignation at having been denied their heritage, their background, their identity, and turned into bland inoffensive no ones in particular when they could have been real Jews. It’s an understandable reaction, and yet it has some … Read the rest

The Times on Christopher Hill *

Feb 27th, 2003 | Filed by

‘No other historian had equalled Hill’s ability to blend a deeply sympathetic understanding of the poor and unlearned with a seemingly limitless knowledge of intellectual and religious doctrine and strife.’… Read the rest

Christopher Hill Obituary *

Feb 27th, 2003 | Filed by

The Marxist historian of the world turned upside-down.… Read the rest

Eating Your Cake and Having It

Feb 26th, 2003 11:26 pm | By

There are some strange assumptions in this review of Adam Sutcliffe’s Judaism and the Enlightenment. For one thing there’s a confusion throughout between Jews and Judaism. For another and related thing, there is a confusion between Judaism as a religion and Jewishness as nationality or ‘ethnic’ ‘identity’. As a result, there is a confusion between criticising a religion and hating people or a people.

There is also a lot of familiar and none the less annoying sneering at the Enlightenment.

The British-born historian is not the first writer to knock Enlightenment thinkers off their pedestals. The period’s “dark side” has been a recurring theme for more than a century now. Critics (among them Friedrich Nietzsche, the Romantic poets, and

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Fabricated Memories Can Be Scary Too *

Feb 26th, 2003 | Filed by

Two Harvard psychologists test the reactions of people who say they have been abducted by aliens.… Read the rest