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Filling out the quotas

For the sake of fairness I ought to include a white male (one who’s not yet dead) in my gallery of intellectual corruption and psychological disorder in academia. So here’s a piece from British philosopher A. C. Grayling in which he gives views on Christianity and European history that in manner and substance qualify him for inclusion. The man has at least as many honors as Pagels or Baker, and he seems smarter than either and as far as I can tell lacks similar personal motivation to say patently indefensible things. He therefore seems the most culpable of the three. (Query: does the fact he’s an academic philosopher, and tries to get by using only the fragment of human rationality his philosophy can justify, mitigate his guilt or does it help constitute it? After all, no one forced him into his occupation.)

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I read the Grayling piece, and was immediately reminded of Joel Garver’s piece on the propaganda of the “Enlightenment narrative” and its self-congratulation on ascending to heights of previously unknown consciousness.

It might disturb Grayling to know (he probably does know, but doesn’t want to advertise) that the very structures and categories of his thought are shaped by his European ancestors, all of whom were Catholics, and his ethical concerns and passions are all peculiarly Christian, even Puritan (he certainly doesn’t share the ethical sensibilities of a Socrates or a Pericles, who were comfortable with slavery, war, imperialism, and patriarchy, or even of the Buddha, who, we shall conjecture, was a bit passive about such things as constitutions and technological innovations). Grayling is invoking Christian categories against Christendom, such as it is these days, which isn’t a bad thing; but one would think that he should admit it.

As for Merkel’s involvement in the Consitution thing, I’m a bit confused, given that she was (or is) an East German Marxist.

As for your comment that Grayling represents either corruption or disorder in the academy, I would consider Grayling, based on this one article, to be a rather shabby representative of the conventional wisdom, at least among Anglo-American philosophers. They combine a sterile academic empiricism with a rapacious, vengeful Puritanical ethical streak, and the two don’t seem to communicate one with the other. Bertrand Russell is the archetypical character in this fauna of confusion.

Secular puritans like Grayling (to paraphrase an old line) fret each night that somebody, somewhere, through the grace of Christ, might be (or is becoming) good, and they are enjoying it to boot.

Such fears drive Grayling-types to despair.

Dunno if he thinks of the categories of his thought as ancestral and Christian. I thought the dominant tendency in Anglo-American academic philosophy was to try to get rid of of all that cultural stuff and just do science, logic and rational analysis. No doubt they’ve become more PoMo in recent years but Grayling seems of the old school. Your general description of such people seems apt, by the way.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

In referencing Grayling’s categories of thought, I was thinking in particular of his accusations against Christendom, which sounded peculiarly Christian, notwithstanding his invocations of Socrates, Pericles, and the Buddha. Buddha was a particularly “non-action” kind of guy, which I don’t think would please the dissatisfied Grayling much, given his expressed passion for social justice, and I can’t contemplate that any classical Greek would have had much pity on the humble or the weak, given that pity was a vice to a pagan, and especially to a Greek.

See this discussion of Grayling’s essay, the good Professor (or a well done parody of him - who can tell?) shows up in comments.

I read the purported responses by Grayling at the Ignatius site.

He comments, castigating the fideists:

“We say to you: be free to believe what you like, but do not impose it on those of us who do not agree with you. That is our message; for then we can live in peace, you with your private beliefs in the private sphere, the public domain a neutral space where we can all meet as human beings, and respect one another on merit, not because of labels. - My very good wishes to you - Anthony Grayling”

Please advise Lord Falconer, referenced in Mr. Kalb’s post on discrimination, and his brief to have little truck with the beliefs of anyone, of whatever standing, and the imposition of his vision of order on whomever and wherever.