See Also...

I almost linked to yesterday's AWESOME op-ed by Stanley Fish ("Are There Secular Reasons?") as a part of my brilliant pamphlet below on Union and Faction, but it deserves its own space. Very relevant! [Still, if you have to choose, read only my post below!]


fenhopper said...

fish's piece is ultimately an empty distinction between secularism and religion. i've not heard the proscription against an "undoubted philosophical first principle" that he uses to deflate the secularist 'rule.'

in fact, that's how i would define secularism. it's more about the universality, than it is about any non-church-related sense. the important thing about secularism in my argument (if i were to expand one) is the existence of accord.

fish's argument seems a really simple definition of "religion" meaning churchy-faithy beliefs, and "secularism" meaning sciency-facty data.

he does better when he sticks to literature.

Casey said...

Well, perhaps I'm extracting the usable stuff here... what I'm thinking is that Fish is pointing us toward considering more carefully what our decisions are based on.

Quick example: in Charlotte right now there are people (including the mayor) pushing to move section-8 HUD housing into a really posh part of town known as "Ballantyne." The Ballantyne folks, of course, are resisting as hard as possible (and seem to have won). So in a case where our desire for integrated living bumps up against property rights and markets, but it's more interesting (for intellectuals, anyway) to ask why we decide what we decide.

And Fish seems to be alluding to is the idea that all of our "rhetorical" values (say, diversity over property rights) are unsatisfactorily contingent.

Like the story of somebody who says the earth is supported by a giant elephant's snout-thing. And when asked what supports the elephant, the storyteller says, "Why, a giant tortoise, of course." And when asked about what supports the tortoise, the storyteller admits, "On an unknown foundation."

So whether we deal with our irrational axioms by way of institutional religion or more anarchically, it seems a ripe time to become more conscious of these axioms.

Or am I reinventing Fish too hard?

Monica said...

I always like Fish, even when I don't like him. I especially love the phrase "intellectual apartheid." He was one of the speakers at the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory when I was there, and he was the only one who could actually stand there and talk for an hour without reading a paper. Maybe it's for that reason alone that I'm going to side (mostly) with him on this one.

fenhopper said...

i think it's the sloppy use of terms and indulgent use of premises with each, that makes me think your reading of where he's "pointing" is more generous than i feel like being.