[MD] Julian Baggini: This is what the clash of civilisations is really about

david dmbuchanan at hotmail.com
Sun May 24 11:27:43 PDT 2015

Baggini wrote:

"The clash of civilisations is happening not between Islam and the West, 
as we are often led to believe, but between pragmatic relativism and 
dogmatic certainty."

Ron said:

I know Baggini is not too well favored here but he does make an interesting observation much akin to RMP in regard to cultural crisis and the return to conservative dogma.

dmb says:

Yes, Pirsig says something similar about the clash between relativism and dogmatic certainty. Like Baggini, he says that things like fascism and fundamentalism are reactionary movements and are, in a sense, the backlash against relativism. But Pirsig is quite okay with classical pragmatism and blames value-free objectivity for giving us relativism - not to mention a sense of meaninglessness and artlessness.

Pragmatic truth sits between the extremes of relativism and dogmatic certainty. It's far too empirical to count as relativism, unlike Rorty's neo-pragmatism, and the plural and provisional nature of pragmatic truths is far too flexible to count as dogmatic. 

We don't need Truth to be Objective, Fixed, Absolute, or Eternal and we can't have that kind of truth anyway. But we do need truth to be vigorous enough and strong enough to kill lies, bullshit, fanaticism, propaganda, honest mistakes and good old fashioned stupidity. We need excellence in thought and speech and ideas that actually work when they're put into practice.   


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