It worked for Aquinas, but would it work for us?

I want to pull something Keith Parsons just said from out of the comments, since it ties in nicely with some questions prompted by one of the books I'm currently reading. Keith said:. . . collapsing the fact/value distinction does not need neuroscience; it goes back to Aristotle. Really, the idea that there is a fact/value dichotomy has only become entrenched in ethics since Hume's "discovery" that you cannot derive an "ought" from an "is." Ancient, medieval, and early modern ethicists almost … [Read more...]

America’s Clairvoyant Founders

All too often, I succumb to the temptation to think that America's Founding Fathers (peace be upon them) were merely human. I entertain heretical thoughts, such as our Holy Constitution being a superannuated eighteenth century relic. In my darkness of unbelief, I imagine that important parts of the Holy Constitution are structurally antidemocratic, and I sometimes even suspect that document may be better scrapped rather than our having to patch it up with another boatload of amendments.But that … [Read more...]

What is wrong with Sam Harris

I regularly gripe about Sam Harris here. When I've had more lengthy pieces to write, I've written against his ignorant approach to Islam, and expressed ambivalence about those aspects of the "New Atheism" associated with Harris.But if I'm going to keep griping, it might not be a bad idea to rehash specifically why I think the popularity of Harris should be embarrassing for nonbelievers. This mainly because a common response to public criticism of religion is is that the critic has misunderstood … [Read more...]

Lears reviews Harris

Historian Jackson Lears has a damning review of all Sam Harris's books in The Nation magazine: "Same Old New Atheism: On Sam Harris."It's not a perfect takedown. Lears can't resist reaching into the liberal religious apologetic bag of tricks (oh, he's not addressing real religion, which is the more sophisticated and more experiential stuff), plus indulges in traditional humanities-based suspicion of science (which manifests itself as bashing "positivism" and "reductionism").But if you can get … [Read more...]

30-cubit-tall Adam

I used to have a principle not to be overly discouraged about any insanity I might observe in the US. After all, something similar but worse was bound to have taken place in Turkey. I could then be happy I didn't live there.With the increasingly entrenched right-wing nature of US public life over the past couple of decades, I can't hold this principle consistently anymore. We now routinely do things here that I would find out of place in a low-income, half-ass-democratic, fervently Islamic … [Read more...]

Rupture, er, Rapture May 21

A little comic relief from all the heavy-duty philosophizing on this site. This is one of the more amusing of these types of stories:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-preacher-warns-end-of-the-world-is-nigh-21-may-around-6pm-to-be-precise-2254139.htmlYou sinners have only a few days to mend your ways if you don't want to be left behind! I enjoyed the idea that God sent the gay pride movement as a sign of the end times. Best, though, was the guy at the bottom of the story who … [Read more...]

Understanding Our Differences (Maybe)

I hesitate to respond to Victor Reppert’s latest riposte (April 19) on his Dangerous Idea blog, since BDK and others have already hashed it out with considerable sophistication and subtlety. My aim here, however, is not to refute Victor (knockdown refutations in philosophy occupy a shadowy ontological niche somewhere between very rare and nonexistent), but to understand as clearly as possible just where our differences lie. In my experience, intractable disagreements come down to ground-floor, … [Read more...]

Darwish talk

Last night Nonie Darwish, one of the favorite ex-Muslims of Fox News, visited campus.She gave a strange talk. Part of was sensible enough, such as the bits where she pointed out the seriously illiberal aspects of Islamic law, with examples of everyday atrocities from countries where sharia has significant influence on laws and policies. (An example she gave about Turkish law, however, was mostly wrong, which didn't inspire confidence.)But then, she also went off the deep end with some … [Read more...]


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