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Showing posts from August, 2010

The murderer should not triumph... (Note)

This was meant to be a double tangent in the previous post, but it was taking up too much room. So I'll place it here.
1. If injustice appears to be irreducible within our horizons, it counsels us to consider asymmetry when we are judging situations. I generally wince at the occasional instances of special pleading that can lead well-meaning people to minimise offences and outrages committed by oppressed groups, and exaggerate those carried out by the powerful, but it is true that all acts have contexts, and the way that acts occur within asymmetric contexts are important.
2. If injustice appears to be irreducible within our horizons, we must attend to material relations of power and oppression, and possession and dispossession. Sometimes, 'identity politics' can adopt an idealistic humanism and make it seem as if all this is a matter of representation: as if when people let their prejudices drop away and saw women, ethnic minorities, non-heterosexuals 'correctly' an…

The murderer should not triumph over his innocent victim

I'm going to start with a deliberately contentious statement: all politics should be religious, or, at least, all radical or emancipatory politics should be religious.
This doesn't come, I'm happy to say, from any sudden road-to-Damascus (Tennessee) conversion to the Fox News inspired worldview of right-wing US fundamentalism, but rather from J├╝rgen Moltmann's dialogue with Frankfurt School Critical Theory in the wonderful The Crucified God.* (Incidentally, follow the Frankfurt School link - what a wonderful picture!)
Now, the core assumption here is twofold. Firstly, that suffering is intolerable (hence the quotation, from Horkheimer, which entitles this post). Secondly, that suffering is impossible to abolish: as Horkheimer suggests, secular history cannot erase injustice. Recently, I've been coming to think more and more that there is an irreducible asymmetry between the powerful and the powerless which must stand at the centre of ethics: exploitation seems intrin…

Free-will

I've been reading a lot of eighteenth-century sermons. Too much theology from a period which is not exactly a rich seam of theological innovation does tend to do odd things, and thus I found when I was reading an account of providence in relationship to prayer by William Leechman. Somewhat strangely, a domino effect ensued, and created a genuine panic about what I actually believed about free-will. This actually suspended my reading in the British Library for a good 45 minutes. In general, I've been content to follow Donald Davidson's anomalous monism - itself derived from a certain Kantianism - that contends that mental events, including volition, intention and 'freedom', are inassimilable to the lawlike explanations of physical science.
Yet, I think something deeper is going on, which I want to explore here - Davidson's (and Kant's) accounts work for me so well partially because they present freedom as an experience of paradox (or a paradox within experien…

Dawkins, Knowledge, Gadamer

I saw Richard Dawkins' More4 documentaryFaith Schools Menance last night. Two things straight off. I'm not really in favour of faith schools, although I doubt that they do a lot of the things Dawkins says that they do. Secondly, there was plenty to critique directly about the documentary's logic: from the ironically emotive use of music (sinister whenever religion was discussed, uplifting whenever science was discussed) to the ropy use of an extreme and overdetermined example in Belfast sectarianism to supposedly characterise the nature of religion as a whole (a basic error of induction, I'd say). However, I'm more interested here in thinking about what constitutes knowledge.
We can start from the letter he writes to his daughter, mentioned prominently in the programme. (Incidentally, if you give this a read, I find it impossible to believe that Dawkins genuinely holds that this letter is an exemplar of letting his daughter keep an open mind, given it has very disti…