About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Defending freedom and reason."

I've just changed this blog's site description to the above - I think that's more accurate as representing the blog has become, in practice, over the past four years.


Robert N Stephenson said...

Freedom is a word that does need clarification sometimes - Freedom of what, who, how, why, when and where.

Reason, of course is always debatable - reason has levels of discernment. Intellectual down to vegetative states.

Seek wisdom in all things, in all dealing and all words expressed.

Zachary Voch said...

I'm afraid that it is difficult to blog about anything else.

I've noticed this in with other science/philosophy/mathematics blogs... It's virtually impossible to ignore the politics.

It reminds me of something Chomsky frequently says in his interviews and writing... an approximation of "I would love to focus solely on linguistics, but politics and social matters require my attention."

The psychology behind it is sort of like the Onion's recent article on Chomsky (which is hilarious, by the way): http://www.theonion.com/articles/exhausted-noam-chomsky-just-going-to-try-and-enjoy,17404/

And further, I am reminded of an answer to a frequent question: "Why do atheists bother arguing against God?" Thing is, the topic rather forces itself on you with the political atmosphere as it is.

Science, literature, art, and philosophy all share this in common: they are frequently threatened by the whims of the public, usually the moralists or totalitarians, via censorship, castrated education requirements, or punishment by funding cut. It's hard to separate literature and art from the 1930s left opposition. In my opinion, it is impossible to understand any of these topics in breadth or depth without an accompanying political history.

I could not be both a philosopher and politically silent. Some manage it, but I find that difficult to understand. I forget where I find the quote, but I think it was in a follow-up paper by Sokal to his hoax, in which he expressed his main concern with postmodern relativism as being politically crippling to the left. To support this, he quoted some such philosopher mourning the abuse of factual relativism for political gain by the right during the Bush years.

Since `defense of reason' is required now to preserve `freedom to reason,' I imagine it would be difficult to discuss, to take a recent example, Hume on a strictly theoretical basis while ignoring, to take other recent examples, burka bans or prayer day decisions. Reason does not occur in a vacuum, I suppose.

Shatterface said...

In the circles I move in nobody is particularly religious and I'd ignored religion since my teens when I'd been the sole atheist in a Catholic school. Apart from the Rushdie affair religion seemed to be an irrelevance. Ditto postmodernism, poststructuralism and psychoanalysis. They're such obvious nonsense I didn't think I'd ever have to encounter them in real life.

I'd love to spend more time talking about science or philosophy or just what's on TV. Instead I'm fighting battles I thought were already won.

Steve Zara said...

I like the change, Russell. You have always been a strong supporter of freedom, and have certainly challenged my views in that area.

Robert N Stephenson said...

Russell you have constantly challenged my views and I have allowed myself to be changed and to even reconsider many things hopefully for the better.

I like to aim for wisdom, a better understanding of all things as they relate to people around me. My Atheists friends concerns are real and valid and I support their desire for a just and even world. My Christian friends also seek justice and compassion for other, something I hope with learning I can assist in.

No matter what side of the street you choose to walk down I have no problems crossing and saying hi.

I like to contemplate before going wild, and of course I can be pretty wild, and then try and be reasonable in my observations while remaining as respectful as possible (not always but I do try).

Russell, I learned a great deal about wisdom - it is something to be treated with caution.

Zachary Voch said...

(If I might add this, I predicted and discovered a correlation with the change in focus of your blog and change in focus of your overall publications.)

Kirth Gersen said...

I very much like the new tag line -- succinct and to the point.