After Confucius’s death, the great debate in classical Confucian philosophy was over human nature: between Mencius, who, broadly speaking, thought humans were naturally good, and Xunzi, who thought we were naturally bad. In a liberal democracy suffused with the individualism of the sixties, I think most people lean much closer to Mencius’s view. But we miss something very important if we ignore Xunzi’s. Continue reading
A week or two ago, my friend Momin Malik responded on Facebook* to my first post on Leah Libresco’s conversion. He took issue in particular with my very brief negative reference to relativism. I have argued against relativism at some length before, in response to Peimin Ni, and also to postmodernism. But in those posts I argued against relativism on pragmatic and performative grounds, because it was mainly being defended in pragmatic and performative terms. I’m interested in Momin’s position because, as far as I can tell, he argues for relativism on rational terms, tries to convince us of relativism because it is in some sense true, not just effective.
According to Momin, relativism says (his emphasis and brackets): “there is no universal or neutral perspective from which we can [rationally] arbitrate between competing viewpoints. So, it’s not that we can’t say Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were wrong and horrible, it’s that such a statement is made from within our own values, and not a universal or neutral perspective.” Continue reading
One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed reading about Leah Libresco‘s conversion is it’s such a clear, current and vivid illustration of a phenomenon whose existence many would fervently like to wish away, would like to declare impossible. Namely, Libresco is demonstrably intelligent, with an actively questioning mind, and young; and she once actively declared herself belonging to the atheism that she has now rejected in favour of Catholicism. Many people find the existence of such a person really hard to take.
The clearest example of this is JT Eberhard, a young atheist blogger who remains a young atheist blogger. In his reaction, Eberhard proclaims: “I’m reading through all her posts and I’m floored. Leah’s really smart. I cannot believe the things she’s writing are coming from her mind.” Continue reading
A startling thing happened last week on Patheos, a website for conversation about “religion”. Atheist blogger Leah Libresco wrote a post entitled “This is my last post for the Patheos atheist portal”. Not for the reason you’d normally expect – that she had no time for blogging and was moving on to other ventures in life. No, Libresco wrote this because she was now going to start writing for the Catholic portal. Continue reading