LOOKING through Bertrand Russell's minor writings in McMaster University's Russell Archives I came across this sentence: 'Fanaticism is primarily an intellectual defect...one to which philosophy supplies an intellectual antidote'. This fascinated me the more, as I had just written an ...
This article analyses how recent critiques of secularism in political philosophy and cultural anthropology might productively be combined and contrasted with each other. I will show that Jürgen Habermas' postsecularism takes insufficient account of elementary criticisms of secularism on the part of anthropologists such as Talal Asad and Saba Mahmood. However, I shall also criticize Saba Mahmood’s reading of secularism by arguing that, in the end, she replaces the secular–religious divide with a secularity–piety divide; for example, in her reading of (...) Nasr Abu Zayd’s secular Islamic hermeneutics. This inhibits the use of her framework of analysis for a criticism of a problem central to Habermas' postsecularism, namely that it remains focused on specific intensities of belief. I shall then argue that, combined with the anthropological critiques of the secular, the political-historical nature of the fanaticism–piety–violence nexus should be integrated into political philosophical debates on secularism and postsecularism. (shrink)
I defend Kant’s moral psychology against John R. Silber’s argument that Kant cannot account for the radical evil of Hitler. Silber’s argument cannot be maintained, I argue, if Kant’s account of theological and moral fanaticism, and the personality of the moral fanatic, are taken into account. I contend that Kant’s writings support an analogy between the fanatical pursuit of religious and moral ideals and Hitler’s fanatical pursuit of an ideal of racial purity. I conclude that Kant’s account of moral (...)fanaticism is adequate to account for the actions and moral psychology of Hitler. (shrink)
One apparently devastating criticism of a whole range of act utilitarian (au) principles is marcus singer's claim that such principles are open to the charge of moral fanaticism, I.E., They commit one to the view that "no action is indifferent or trivial, Every occasion is momentous." this moral fanaticism argument (mfa) is examined in detail. I argue that the mfa is not all that devastating; indeed the act utilitarian can altogether escape the charge of being a fanatic.
All the standard and some esoteric objections to pacifism are refuted, either directly or (as with the charge of impracticality) in outline. Familiar arguments to the inconsistency and irresponsibility of pacifism are shown to turn upon illegitimately construing pacifist activities such as resisting, preventing, and defending as involving violence. Several arguments against pacifism from violence as a lesser evil turn out to be fallacious; some involve the erroneous assumption that violence is the only evil, but some lead into what pacifism (...) can simply concede, moral dilemmas. It is argued that pacifism is not a form of fanaticism, is not morally insensitive, does not imply anarchism, or vegetarianism, is not completely impractical, and can be positively underpinned. In the course of the arguments various types of pacifism are classified, pacifism is distinguished from nonviolent action, and pacifism and, differently, pacificity are disassociated from passivity: The question of a more general characterization of violence (which is different from force) emerges as a crucial issue, along with the problem of integrating pacifism into a more comprehensive moral position. (shrink)
In this essay I examine Hegel's treatment of religion in the "Philosophy of Right" with the aim of, first, clarifying his view of the proper relation between religion and the state and, second, shedding some light on a few of the remarkable implications of the conceptual approach that he introduces. I focus above all on Hegel's novel and suggestive treatment of fanaticism, which I argue, is of special interest as an illustration of his conception of modernity. The implications of (...) Hegel's views for religiously inspired political engagement are also discussed. (shrink)
Ecrasez l’infâme! Voltaire’s rallying cry against fanaticism resonates with new force today. Nothing suggests the complex legacy of the Enlightenment more than the struggle of superstition, prejudice, and intolerance advocated by most of the Enlightenment philosophers, regardless of their ideological differences. The aim of this book is to undertake a reconsideration of the controversies surrounding the questions of religion, toleration, and fanaticism in the eighteenth century through an examination of Rousseau’s dialogue with Voltaire. What come to light from (...) this confrontation are two leading and at times competing world views and conceptions of the place of the engaged writer in society. (shrink)
In this paper, I critically discuss a number of arguments made by John Kekes, in a recent article, against the claim that those of us who are relatively affluent ought to do something for those living in absolute poverty in developing countries. There are, I argue, a variety of problems with Kekes' arguments, but one common thread stems from Kekes' failure to take account of the empirical research that has been conducted on the issues which he discusses.
Butler refused to be satisfied with just one leading principle, or rational basis for human action, but in the end settled for three: self-love, to provide for our ‘own private good’; benevolence, to consider ‘the good of our fellow creatures’ ; and conscience, ‘to preside and govern’ over our lives as a whole . By so doing he hoped to ensure a completeness to our ethical scheme, so that nothing would be omitted from our moral deliberations. Yet by so doing (...) he also exposed himself to severe criticism. For any such appeal to a plurality of principles, as Green remarked, is ‘repugnant both to the philosophic craving for unity, and to that ideal of “singleness of heart” which we have been accustomed to associate with the highest virtue’. More specifically, by appealing to a plurality of principles Butler faced the charges of circularity, where the principles come to define and defend each other; inconsistency, where the principles ‘take turns’ at being primary and hence render each other superfluous; and incompleteness, where the ‘primary principle’ is itself undefined or undefended. As the tale has been told Butler stands accused of all three of these errors. (shrink)
William James’s pluralism, when combined with his pragmatism and radical empiricism, is a complete and coherent philosophy of life. James provides an antidote to the excesses of both the extreme realist/objectivist and the extreme constructivist/relativist camps. In this paper, we demonstrate how this is so in a discussion of epistemology and ontology including several extended examples. These examples demonstrate the inescapability of context and background assumptions and the advantages of a pluralist worldview.
This study attempts to explore the possible motivations, both obvious and problematic, behind the ritual suicide (seppuku) committed by the Japanese writer in the name of the Emperor at the Eastern Headquarters of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in 1970. History does not seem to be a coherent or intelligible process, as man’s struggle for nourishment is most often replaced by thymos, the desire for others to recognize his value or the value system of the ideals or noble purposes he is ready (...) to sacrifice for, ignoring the basic instinct of self-conservation. Yukio Mishima was extremely pessimistic about pragmatic and materialistic contemporary Japan. History brought along increasing consumerism, thus disturbing the harmony of traditional Japanese spirituality. The technological ability to improve human existence seemed to alter inevitably the moral evolution of contemporary Japanese. Against this background of ruling “costs” and “benefits”, the Japanese writer seems to believe that it is only the thymotic man, the “man of anger”, who can fight for the recognition and salvation of the Japanese soul (yamato damashii). Believed for centuries to be the true art of dying, Yukio Mishima’s seppuku turned from a “beautiful” gesture into one of protest and accusation: the Japanese society had begun the transition from a closed society to an open one, governed by anxiety, in which individuals faced personal decisions. (shrink)