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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Writers' festival

I found my way to a few events at the Melbourne Writers' festival over the past week or so. The most interesting, perhaps, was the "politics of atheism" panel yesterday morning, which was advertised as featuring AC Grayling, Humphrey McQueen, and Val Noone. In the event, McQueen dropped out and was replaced by a female academic whose name I didn't catch, unfortunately, since she was very engaging and informative. She'd done some research on the major pentecostal churches in Australia and had some interesting observations about their culture and their obsessions (political and otherwise). I've had enough dealings with such people - though a long time ago - to have recognised some of what she was saying.

Val Noone, a veteran lefty Catholic activist, seemed an unpleasant fellow. He spent his time ranting about the "false gods" of capitalism, technology, and the like, which was all irrelevant to the topic, and attacked Grayling quite personally.

By contrast, Grayling was a class act. I've made a note to myself that I must learn to be as patient with the likes of Noone as he was. Grayling endured the emotive and personal nature of Noone's remarks, while sticking to the issues and appearing quite calm and unruffled. The contrast made Noone appear churlish.


Stuart Peace said...

Made Noone seem churlish to you because you had the capabilities to understand what was going on. No doubt the average idiot would have saw things differently - hence why Noone is in the position he is in.

To quote the Simpsons "you'll never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator".

Russell Blackford said...

That's the problem of course - different people, with different prejudices, life experiences, and so on, will often have very different perceptions of who "won" a debate, and even of what counts as "winning".