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More on antiessentialism

Another thought on that crowd-pleasing topic, “essentialism.” Many claim that Islam and the West can’t be in conflict because there is no “Islam”—just many Islams. If you say something bad about feminism the complaint will be called unfounded because after all there are many feminisms. And if you present some grand theory of liberalism from John Locke to John Rawls you’ll be told that there are multiple liberalisms with nothing substantive in common. After all, they will say, John Locke liked property and John Rawls likes socialism, so what can the one have to do with the other?


The essence of antiessentialism

Comments about the “clash of civilizations” and such like provoke complaints about “essentialism,” the supposed error or sin of attributing a particular fixed character to a group of people. The thought behind such complaints is that something as complex as a civilization or religion or race must be a heterogeneous collection of things that seems to acquire unity and take on a particular character only in relation to other things and to the purposes of the viewer.


Deep ecology at the LSE

Antihumanism has made another convert. John Gray of the London School of Economics, formerly a classical liberal and what not else, is coming out with a new book, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals. The new book is said to be “a demolition of two and a half thousand years of Western thought” that has been based on “arrogant and erroneous beliefs about human beings and their place in the world.” His views appear to draw heavily from deep ecology, the Gaia hypothesis, and the Unabomer. The title, which echos a line from the Tao Te Ching, suggests that they also draw on Eastern religion.



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