REASON IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION

By | Cognitive Science, Critical Essays, Psychology, Western Civilisation | No Comments

Or what it means to be a rationalist in our time For years now, I have heard people speak sceptically, even dismissively, about ‘Western logic’ or ‘Cartesian rationalism’, as if the ills of the modern world are largely to be blamed on an excess of reason in Western civilization. I feel pretty much at home in the Rationalist Society because I believe such notions are fundamentally erroneous. In writing this for readers of The Australian Rationalist, I am, in all probability, preaching to the converted, but even among members of the Rationalist Society of Australia there is, I suspect, quite…

Read More

 ‘EMBODIED SPIRIT’ AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGION

By | Book reviews for the press, Western Civilisation | No Comments

  Roberto Mangabeira Unger is a polymath of Brazilian extraction teaching at Harvard University. He has had an extraordinary career, both in the United States and in Brazil and has written many books. His book, The Religion of the Future (Harvard University Press, 2014), is a remarkable offering in several ways and ought to serve as the point of departure for a major global debate about the nature of religion and its place in the 21st century world. The book is global in sweep, deeply informed by the best scholarship on the history and philosophy of the world religions, intimately…

Read More

ATHEISM, MUSIC AND CIVILIZATION

By | Book reviews for the press, Western Civilisation | No Comments

Paul Monk reflects on Sam Harris’s The End of Faith “…everywhere I saw how readily men construct fables in order to avoid looking reality in the face. The invention of an afterlife would not matter so much were it not purchased at so high a price: disregard of the real, hence willful neglect of the only world there is. While religion is often at variance with immanence, with man’s inherent nature, atheism is in harmony with the earth – life’s other name.” Michel Onfray The Atheist Manifesto (2005)[i]   “Who are they who fill wells with earth? They are without…

Read More

THE INFERNAL PUZZLE OF ANTI-SEMITISM

By | Critical Essays, History, Religion, Western Civilisation | No Comments

  I have always found anti-Semitism perplexing. I associate Jewishness with a religion that doesn’t pester anyone; an intellectual culture that produces a disproportionate number of Nobel Laureates, comedians, musicians, philosophers, economists, novelists and philanthropists; and, perhaps not least, an outsider status with which, as an intellectual, I identify. When I was a young man, I knew only one set of anti-Semites: Hungarian immigrants, who had come to Australia after the Second World War and the Communist takeover in Eastern Europe. They were neighbours and members of the Catholic parish in which I grew up. They were fine people in…

Read More