Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A disorienting combination of nuance and error (historical, metaphysical, etc.)

For example

The former:
Science doesn't know how to answer such a question.  Only religions provide us with the necessary guidance [(189; but Harari's understanding of 'religion' is constructivistically non-cognitive (179 ff.)].

The latter:
Why, then, are not all humans Catholic?  Because when you read the fine print, you discover that Catholicism also demands blind obedience to a pope 'who never makes mistakes' even when he orders his followers to go on crusades and burn heretics at the stake [(191)]. 
Scientists have subjected Homo sapiens to tens of thousands of bizarre experiments, and looked into every nook in our hearts and every cranny in our brains.  But they have so far discovered no magical spark.  There is zero scientific evidence that, in contrast to pigs, Sapiens have souls [(102; but reread this in the light of his argument that 'the very idea of soul contradicts the most fundamental principles of evolution' (103)]. 
We can now use an entire arsenal of scientific methods to determine who composed the Bible, and when.  Scientists have been doing exactly that for more than a century, and if you are interested, you can read whole books about their findings.  To cut a long story short, most peer-reviewed scientific studies agree that the Bible is a collection of numerous different texts composed by different human authors, . . . that these texts were not assembled into a single holy book until long after biblical times[, and that therefore God did not write the Bible (194-195)].

     Yuval Noah Harari, Homo deus:  a brief history of tomorrow, trans. Yuval Noah Harari (New York:  Harper, 2017).  Statements like these could be multiplied in both "columns".

"Bohrer is in his anecdotage"

     Ben Hutchinson, "It's now-time:  a German conservative in a progressive world," The times literary supplement no. 6012 (June 22, 2018):  33 (32-33), of Karl Heinz Bohrer, in a review of Jetzt: Geschichte meines Abenteuers mit der Phantasie.  This has been, I see, a sense since 1835, according to the OED.  Brilliant.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Jacques Maritain on Saul Alinsky

"among those of my contemporaries still living as I write these lines, I see in the Western world no more than three revolutionaries worthy of the name—Eduardo Frei in Chile, Saul Alinsky in America, . . . and myself in France, who am not worth beans, since my call as a philosopher has obliterated my possibilities as an agitator. . . ."

     Jacques Maritain, The peasant of the Garonne:  an old layman questions himself about the present time (New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968), 23.  Footnote:  "Saul Alinsky, who is a great friend of mine, is a courageous and admirably staunch organizer of 'people's communities' and an anti-racist leader whose methods are as effective as they are unorthodox.  Cf. 'The Professional Radical, Conversations with Saul Alinksy,' Harper's Magazine, June, July, 1965" (23n16).
     But things look completely spoiled when, at certain moments of deep trouble, the political formations of left and right, instead of being each a more or less high-spirited team held in check by a more or less firm political reason, have become nothing more than exasperated affective complexes carried away by their myth-ideal; from that point on, political intelligence can do nothing but practice ruses in the service of passion.  Under those conditions, to be neither right nor left means simply that one intends to keep his sanity.     This is what I [(Maritain)] tried my best to do, at a time when things were already quite spoiled ('I am neither left nor right,' even though by temperament [(as distinguished from politics)] I am what people call a man of the left)" (22)
i.e. one who, if taken to an extreme, would detest "being, always preferring, in principle, in the words of Rousseau, what is not to what is" (21).

"such an exhausting work of hermeneutic evacuation"

Comte "was more honest than you, studious expurgators of revealed truths.  He at least fabricated the myths of his 'subjective synthesis' fairly and squarely out of whole cloth, not, like you, by reinterpreting a whole religious heritage to which you believe yourself more faithful than anyone, nor by trying to deceive the thirst, and the heart, of those whose faith you imagine you share."

     Jacques Maritain, The peasant of the Garonne:  an old layman questions himself about the present time (New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968), 7 =Le paysan de la Garonne:  un vieux laïc s'interroge à propos du temps présent (Paris:  Desclée de Brouwer, 1966), 18.  The heading ("un si épuisant travail d'évacuation herméneutique") is from 9-10 =22.