Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Exchange with Jonathan Derbyshire

Keen readers of this blog (are there any, I wonder?) will recall that Jonathan Derbyshire reviewed my book for the New Humanist. We had a brief exchange about the review, which I reproduce here:

1.)

27 June, 2007

Dear Mr Derbyshire,

I have just seen your review of my book, The Threat to Reason. It is the first I have seen, so I read it with great interest, as you can imagine.

I am glad you thought it was breezy; I did want to write something that would be accessible to non-experts.

I am sorry that that you found it hard to tell what kind of Enlightenment-sceptic I am, or if I even am one. For the record, I like lots of things we associate with the Enlightenment; free inquiry, a commitment to material progress through the advancement of knowledge, and so on. But as you are aware the history of the Enlightenment is complex and cannot be defended (or attacked) as an indivisible whole. We shouldn't be forced to choose whether to be for or against the Enlightenment; indeed I don’t know what it would mean to be for or against a historical period.

I wish I could have been clearer about this in the book, but there it is. I was conscious while writing that I was operating at the very limit of, and sometimes beyond, my powers.

One thing did puzzle me, and I wanted to ask you about it. In the conclusion to the review you write that:

The problem with this kind of analysis is that it criticizes the dupes of military or corporate might on the basis of principles (justice, say) that, by its own lights, cannot be anything but the ideological residue of power politics. But the ‘betrayal of the Enlightenment’ that Hind denounces wouldn’t be real if its principles themselves weren’t real.

Why do you think that my analysis requires me to believe that moral principles ‘can’t be anything other than the ideological residue of power politics’? I certainly don’t believe that, and I would be very disappointed (horrified, in fact) if I had written anything that gave the impression that I did. I’d be very keen to know what prompted you to think this.

It would be fun to have a bit of a discussion about this and related topics. What with Hitchens’s call for a new Enlightenment the other day and the current vogue for atheist polemic, I would welcome a conversation about what it would mean to be enlightened now, and about what we can learn from the history of the Age of Reason. If you like we could aspire to one of those public debates that Kant was so keen on.

Yours sincerely,

Dan Hind

2.

2 July, 2007

Dear Dan (if I may?)

Very sorry not to have replied to your email sooner - I've been away.
I'm sorry you're puzzled by that paragraph in my review, so let me try to clarify the point I was trying to make. You argue that Enlightenment principles have been "betrayed" (p134). As I point out, this entails that those principles are real, that they have substantive content and are not just ideological epiphenomena. However, you also argue that Enlightenment ideals routinely provide cover for power politics (see, for example, p105).

Now, you could quite reasonably reply that those two claims are perfectly compatible and that what you mean by "betrayal" is just the latter. But if that's the case, I don't understand why you insist on using the notion of the "Occult Enlightenment". If it's a "betrayal" of the Enlightenment, why use the term at all? It seems to me that you're tempted here, perhaps for polemical purposes, by what can plausibly be described as an Enlightenment-scepticism too strong for the rest of your argument to bear.

Does that help?

All best,

Jonathan

3.

14 August, 2007

I have thought about Jonathan's point for a while now and can understand how he could see a problem with my position.

He is right, I think, that I should have worked harder to distinguish between two ways in which the state-corporate system relates to the Enlightenment.

Firstly, states and corporations exploit enlightened rhetoric to maginalise and discredit their enemies, as when corporate-friendly think tanks set up a confrontation between enlightened experts and an irrational, risk-averse public.

Secondly states and corporations support scientific institutions under conditions of secrecy, or at least commercial confidentiality. I call this the Occult Enlightenment in the book.

The work of the Occult Enlightenment remains recognisably in the Enlightenment tradition. The work of scientists developing biological weapons may well be scientifically impeccable, albeit morally disgusting. It doesn't make sense to declare that this work is simply a 'betrayal of the Enlightenment'. It is too close to the program for knowledge suggested by Bacon and indeed too close to the program of the Royal Society. On the other hand I do think it should be resisted, should indeed be the focus of enlightened public inquiry. In the Occult Enlightenment, open sincere debate takes place behind closed doors. Hence the attempt to contrast an Open with an Occult Enlightenment.

Of course the two approaches do sometimes coincide, as when an intelligence agency market-tests and then deploys enlightened rhetoric to damage the reputation of their enemies - as when an official enemy is declared to be an enemy of freedom of speech, a strong theme in CIA propaganda against the Sandinistas in the 80s, for example.

So, for the record, activities can both plausibly inhabit the tradition of the Enlightenment in one sense, and at the same time undermine it in another.

Exciting, isn't it?

(15 August, 2007 - I have decided to change the wording on page 134 in future editions of the book to remove any ambiguity. I do try to distinguish throughout between Enlightenment as a moral commitment to truth and Enlightenment as a set of rational techniques deployed in an institutional setting, so I don't think that Derbyshire's point generalises, but as I say, I can see why he might have been confused by this particular sentence)

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many times something can seem wonderful on the surface but when you get down to the meat of the issue it is not so great. This happens more often then not when people fail to read the fine print about online casino bonuses. While there are a good many online casino bonuses out there, which ones are actually worth the time and hassle to take part in? Lets take a look at some of them.
[url=http://www.casinolesoleil.com]casino[/url] http://www.casinolesoleil.com casino Web-based games are played through your browser. You might need Macromedia Flash, Macromedia Shockwave, or Java installed for the games to work. With this type, no software is loaded to you computer and you can usually start playing immediately. This is great to play one of the many free games some casinos offer.
[url=http://www.redlotuscasino.com]casino[/url] http://www.redlotuscasino.com casino Of course, when you play in a casino, you have a basic understanding that the house almost always wins. This also applies in online casinos. So make sure that you go slowly on transferring money, since online casino, just like traditional casinos, can become quite addictive. [url=http://www.triumphcasino.com]casino[/url] http://www.triumphcasino.com casino http://www.affrewards.com [url=http://www.affrewards.com]casino affiliate program[/url] As with all gambling bingo is totally addictive and you should be careful of its grip on you! [url=http://www.bingokisses.com]bingo[/url] [url=http://www.bingoeuphoria.com]bingo[/url] bingo bingo http://www.bingokisses.com http://www.bingoeuphoria.com With online bingo your cards are randomly selected by the computer and you can play with a great number of cards sometimes as many as 100 or more. Ordinarily you will need no more than three or four cards. A display board or a caller will flash your bingo numbers and you will need to fill the pattern displayed to win the game. Some online games will have the computer automatically search and fill the numbers for you. Some people find this automation a kill-joy but some actually love the fact that all they have to do watch for the bingo flash!!!
http://www.casinolesoleil.com http://www.redlotuscasino.com http://www.triumphcasino.com http://www.bingokisses.com http://www.bingoeuphoria.com http://www.pulsebet.com http://www.affrewards.com http://www.thehighrollerclub.com
http://www.buyphentermine1.com [url=http://www.buyphentermine1.com]buy phentermine[/url] http://www.norxbuy.com buy phentermine

2:41 PM  
Blogger gaohui said...

If you want to look ed hardy clothes and feel sexy, a Christian audigier maternity cocktail ed hardy shoes dress may be the ed hardy outlet fashion choice. There ed hardy Bikini are a variety ed hardy hats of cocktail dresses ed hardy swimsuits available, from a sexy ed hardy clothing black to an eye catching red. You can ed hardy glasses either choose a dramatic wrap-dress ed hardy or a sophisticated jersey dress. There ed hardy iphone cases are a variety of styles, patterns, and designs ed hardy dresses to suit any occasion. If you are looking for a bit more ed hardy Jackets dazzle, consider a comfy waist band mini skirt.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Viagra Online said...

Hi dear blogger, I do not recall Jonathan Derbyshire, but I do recall your book New Humanist which I bought and read by the way and I really liked it!

Generic Viagra Viagra

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Louis Vuitton handbag designers by all agency accord again exclaimnation to people, to aforementioned the New Arrival Tambour with the sun as a ambit stone. The Women’s Tambour use the precious stones interspersed color. From this, we can see watch absolutely has become a avant-garde art.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Louis Vuitton handbag designers by all agency accord again exclaimnation to people, to aforementioned the New Arrival Tambour with the sun as a ambit stone. The Women’s Tambour use the precious stones interspersed color. From this, we can see watch absolutely has become a avant-garde art.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dating the babysitter http://loveepicentre.com/faq.php starting a dating website

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cost accounting 13 edition ebook http://audiobooksplanet.co.uk/Delese-Wear/m28954/ kamasutra ebook download free [url=http://audiobooksplanet.co.uk/de/The-Other-Brain-From-Dementia-to-Schizophrenia/p28477/]android ebook notification panel[/url] free traffic engineering ebook

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what software does twisted scape use http://buyoem.co.uk/product-37155/Ultralingua-6-0-French-English sibelius student edition software review [url=http://buyoem.co.uk/product-14045/Dynamic-Notes-3-3]matchworks software[/url] what is a open source software
[url=http://buyoem.co.uk/es/product-34598/Adobe-After-Effects-CS5-5]Adobe After Effects CS5.5 - Cheap Legal OEM Software, Software Sale, Download OEM[/url] best playstation 3 stream software
[url=http://buyoem.co.uk/de/product-36958/Ashampoo-Core-Tuner-2-2-0][img]http://buyoem.co.uk/image/3.gif[/img][/url]

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[url=http://onlinemedistore.com/products/desyrel.htm][img]http://onlinemedistore.com/8.jpg[/img][/url]
aarp pharmacy http://onlinemedistore.com/products/citalopram.htm chain pharmacy industry profile [url=http://onlinemedistore.com/catalogue/w.htm]horgans pharmacy[/url]
pharmacy techician jobs http://onlinemedistore.com/products/diabecon.htm pharmacy interview questions [url=http://onlinemedistore.com/products/imitrex.htm]imitrex[/url]
kabs pharmacy tampa online http://onlinemedistore.com/products/pamelor.htm betty brown pharmacy cartoon [url=http://onlinemedistore.com/products/erythromycin.htm]pharmacy institutions in kenya[/url]
bryan katuin pharmacy resident huntington memorial hospital http://onlinemedistore.com/categories/sleeping-aid.htm walmart pharmacy orlando fl 32819 [url=http://onlinemedistore.com/products/fml-forte.htm]fml forte[/url]

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/estrace.htm][img]http://onlinemedistore.com/4.jpg[/img][/url]
uintah medical center pharmacy http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/keftab.htm pharmacy drug product image [url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/lysexl.htm]pharmacy technician pin[/url]
pharmacy technician cost http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/arimidex.htm wal green pharmacy [url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/suhagra.htm]suhagra[/url]
aerage pay for pharmacy tech tn http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/anafranil.htm state pharmacy assistance programs [url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/plan-b.htm]sapulpa drive in pharmacy[/url]
pharmacy drugs prescription care insurance member http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/viramune.htm pharmacy database examples [url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/plavix.htm]plavix[/url]

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/reglan.htm][img]http://onlinemedistore.com/6.jpg[/img][/url]
pharmacy tech ks laws http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/categories/antibiotics.htm pharmacy in operating room setting [url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/inderal.htm]walmart in store pharmacy prescription prices in erie pa[/url]
strength og guardian pharmacy http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/categories/party-pills.htm mexican pharmacy overnight shipping [url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/oxytrol.htm]oxytrol[/url]
where is teres pharmacy http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/colchicine.htm unc pharmacy notification [url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/plendil.htm]maine pharmacy law pseudoephedrine[/url]
narcotic record storage pharmacy ontario http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/products/endep.htm cheapest online pharmacy phentermine [url=http://certifiedpharmacy.co.uk/categories/cholesterol.htm]cholesterol[/url]

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

recensione software online dating [url=http://freeinternetdating.info/matchmaking/christian-matchmaking-personals]christian matchmaking personals[/url] best iphone sex dating apps
hacked dating sites http://freeinternetdating.info/singles/singles-cruises-from-tampa 100 free dating scotland
dating forum health man [url=http://freeinternetdating.info/bride/russian-bride-murder]free dating profile writer[/url] online dating services adult

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dating in south wales http://loveepicentre.com/map/ sex dating in bath illinois
websites on dating violence [url=http://loveepicentre.com/articles/]adult dating site scams[/url] floyd county kentucky adult dating personals
relati ve dating of geological strata [url=http://loveepicentre.com/]lebanon dating beirut romance[/url] top 20 free dating sights [url=http://loveepicentre.com/user/123soleil/]123soleil[/url] 100 dating free personal

9:00 AM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

burberry handbags, ugg boots, nike outlet, tiffany and co, christian louboutin, oakley sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, replica watches, uggs outlet, uggs on sale, cheap oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet, kate spade outlet, prada handbags, louis vuitton outlet, polo outlet, jordan shoes, tory burch outlet, oakley sunglasses wholesale, gucci handbags, replica watches, louis vuitton outlet, nike air max, louis vuitton, michael kors outlet online, christian louboutin shoes, prada outlet, chanel handbags, michael kors outlet, oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, oakley sunglasses, tiffany jewelry, uggs outlet, ray ban sunglasses, nike free, michael kors outlet online, nike air max, christian louboutin outlet, louis vuitton, longchamp outlet, christian louboutin uk, michael kors outlet online, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, michael kors outlet online, longchamp outlet

7:31 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

mulberry uk, nike tn, abercrombie and fitch uk, nike air max, nike free run, lululemon canada, true religion outlet, oakley pas cher, longchamp pas cher, nike free uk, sac hermes, nike blazer pas cher, hollister uk, true religion jeans, new balance, air max, coach outlet store online, north face uk, coach outlet, north face, michael kors pas cher, true religion outlet, nike roshe run uk, nike air max uk, polo lacoste, michael kors, hollister pas cher, vans pas cher, nike air max uk, polo ralph lauren, jordan pas cher, timberland pas cher, nike air force, nike roshe, burberry pas cher, converse pas cher, michael kors outlet, sac vanessa bruno, ray ban pas cher, ralph lauren uk, kate spade, replica handbags, ray ban uk, michael kors, louboutin pas cher, true religion outlet, coach purses, guess pas cher, hogan outlet, sac longchamp pas cher

7:33 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

mont blanc pens, reebok outlet, mcm handbags, bottega veneta, abercrombie and fitch, hollister, nike roshe run, nike trainers uk, longchamp uk, celine handbags, insanity workout, iphone 6s plus cases, instyler, iphone cases, s6 case, mac cosmetics, herve leger, soccer jerseys, wedding dresses, north face outlet, new balance shoes, ferragamo shoes, iphone 5s cases, lululemon, ralph lauren, timberland boots, nike huaraches, soccer shoes, chi flat iron, asics running shoes, iphone 6s cases, jimmy choo outlet, valentino shoes, hollister clothing, iphone 6 cases, ipad cases, babyliss, vans outlet, nfl jerseys, north face outlet, giuseppe zanotti outlet, beats by dre, p90x workout, louboutin, oakley, ghd hair, baseball bats, hermes belt, iphone 6 plus cases, nike air max

7:36 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

hollister, coach outlet, barbour, canada goose outlet, ugg uk, wedding dresses, canada goose outlet, canada goose uk, toms shoes, doudoune moncler, moncler outlet, louis vuitton, moncler outlet, links of london, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, montre pas cher, louis vuitton, nike air max, lancel, converse, swarovski crystal, moncler, juicy couture outlet, juicy couture outlet, moncler uk, canada goose jackets, ugg pas cher, moncler, pandora jewelry, swarovski, gucci, ugg, vans, hollister, louis vuitton, louis vuitton, karen millen uk, canada goose outlet, marc jacobs, canada goose, supra shoes, louis vuitton, thomas sabo, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, pandora uk, barbour uk, pandora jewelry, moncler, converse outlet, ray ban, moncler, canada goose

7:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home