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Enlightenment Fundamentalism?

That's what Tim Garton Ash says Hirsi Ali suffers from, and Ian Buruma is only slightly less hyperbolic in his rhetoric about the Somali dissident. But French philosopher Pascal Bruckner begs to differ with both: Those who revolt against barbarism … Read More

By / February 1, 2007

That's what Tim Garton Ash says Hirsi Ali suffers from, and Ian Buruma is only slightly less hyperbolic in his rhetoric about the Somali dissident. But French philosopher Pascal Bruckner begs to differ with both:

Those who revolt against barbarism are themselves accused of being barbarians. In politics as in philosophy, the equals sign is always an abdication. If thinking involves weighing one's words to name the world well, drawing comparisons in other words, then levelling distinctions testifies to intellectual bankruptcy. Shouting CRS = SS as in May '68, making Bush = Bin Laden or equating Voltaire to Savonarola is giving cheap satisfaction to questionable approximations. Similarly, the Enlightenment is often depicted as nothing but another religion, as mad and intransigent as the Catholicism of the Inquisition or radical Islam.

Added to which, the term "Enlightenment" encompasses too many varied – and often contradictory – philosophical concepts that cannot be reduced to a mutual set of fundaments. There'd be a world of difference between a Humean fundamentalist and Hobbesean fundamentalist. How does one square all of the Enlightenment?

Although all the monotheisms have their sects and splinter movements, there are some shared tenets that can't be argued with. A Catholic who denies Jesus was the son of God, or a Muslim who claims Mohammed's divine revelations were actually hallucinations brought about by epileptic seizures — what then of the former's Catholicism or the latter's Islam?

One only has to consider the category "Leviathan literalist" to see how shaky the ground beneath Garton Ash's feet is. His act of semantic jujitsu here may be memorable, but it's not persuasive.

Pascal Bruckner: Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists? – signandsight

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