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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).

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Currently reading - I Don't Believe in Atheists

All right, the less said about this one the better. Just for once, I think Sam Harris is absolutely right: Hedges appears to be a nutjob. Take a bow, Sam.

The only mystery is how did a book as comprehensively bad and, let's face it, stupid, as this ever find a publisher - and a pretty good one at that (Free Press)? I suppose irrational vitriol sells...

*sigh*

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I suppose irrational vitriol sells..." Maybe this is what Hoffmann's hoping for. He seems a little short of, you know, actual arguments.

Pete Moulton

Pete Carlton said...

I surmise that Hedges's reaction to Harris's paragraph — in which he used the extremely hypothetical situation of a nuclear-armed Islamist regime merely as an illustration of how crazy the religion-driven world is— was motivated by what Philip Tetlock calls "sacred value protection" against Harris's taboo cognition. For while writing his paragraph, Sam Harris did indeed have the thought in his mind of a nuclear first strike against an innocent population. In the sacred value protection model, it does not matter that Harris in truth recoils from the idea of it – the very fact that he even let the idea into his mind makes him the target of moral outrage. It's very unfortunate for Hedges to fall into this trap, since it prevents the possibility of rational discussion.

Eamon Knight said...

(I think my last attempt got eaten. Apoliges if this shows up twice)

A guy in our book club read it, by way of taking one for the team (we were all very appreciative):
http://cfiottawa.com/a-review-of-chris-hedges-i-dont-believe-in-atheists/

Russell Blackford said...

On another thread we discussed whether Harris brought some of this on himself, the way he wrote that passage (and perhaps this can be extended to other passages in the book that have copped flak).

Still, when you read the passage in its entirety he is certainly not advocating what Hedges claims he is advocating. Hedges seems to be adopting a principle of reading Harris as uncharitably as possible, rather than one of being charitable to an opponent or one of seeking clarification - and of continuing to do even when the intended meaning is explained. See the various discussions of this from Harris.

Darrick Lim said...

After watching a Truthdig hosted debate between Hedges and Harris, I came away with two impressions:

1) Harris has incredible patience. After being called a racist (and other assorted nasty things), he calmly rebutted Hedges's accusations and clarified his actual position firmly but without losing his temper. The man showed grace and class in what was quite a heated exchange (with Hedges providing most of the heat).

2) Hedges is a spiteful, disingenuous, dirty fighting apologist for religion who can't hold a candle to Harris for eloquence, composure and intellectual integrity.

Russell Blackford said...

Well also, it's one of those cases of refusing to let go of a prejudicial point even after the intention has been clarified. However he interpreted it the first time, it's incumbent on to say on later occasions, "In fairness to Sam Harris, he clarified his point as follows when we debated ... [etc., etc.]"

Not doing that is unfair and intellectually dishonest. And it's not as if it's only happened once or the clarification was somewhere obscure to him.

Russell Blackford said...

Don't know what happened to you the first time, Eamon. I checked whether it had got caught in my spam filter, but no sign of it there.

Russell Blackford said...

Pete, I've been meaning to get to that post by Hoffmann, but where do you even start?

Darrick Lim said...

Well also, it's one of those cases of refusing to let go of a prejudicial point even after the intention has been clarified. However he interpreted it the first time, it's incumbent on to say on later occasions, "In fairness to Sam Harris, he clarified his point as follows when we debated ... [etc., etc.]"

Exactly. Sure, misrepresenting an opponent's views often happens in debates and arguments. We all do it, especially when our passion gets the better of us. But to continue misrepresenting someone's position even after they've clarified it, as Hedges has done to Harris, is odious.

Darrick Lim said...

Regarding Hoffman, he's cocked a leg and pissed on all the atheist advocates who have made substantial contributions to the relevant issues. On that note Russell, you should be peeved that he didn't aim your way. ;)

I suspect that Hoffman didn't dare disparage Hitchens for fear that Hitch would resuscitate, punch his way out of the grave, and hunt Hoffman down to hitchslap the accommodationist out of him.

Darrick Lim said...

Correction: 'Hoffmann'

Eric O said...

I still have Hedges' book on my bookshelf. Although I flipped through it, I haven't been able to bring myself to read it in its entirety. While I think it's admirable to read a book that you know you won't agree with - it shows open-mindedness - it's painful to read a book that you know will be full of lies and half-truths.