Friday, March 26, 2010

Intellectual Relativism

My head hurts after reading this article. I'm not sure what one has to do to join the demographic group called "Western intellectuals," or how someone can write a book criticizing them as a group, but I do know they seem to spend an awful lot of time talking about each other's opinions.

But that's just one part of it. The other part: the cultural friction between Enlightenment-trained Westerners and what those westerners ascribe to multi-faceted Islamic civilization and its dissenters. (I hope I got that right.) So there's a cultural relativism aspect to it that I find interesting.

Oh yeah, and the fact that an awful lot of violence has been inserted into the philosophical discourse recently, and "Western intellectuals" aren't really capable of dealing with that fact.



patsbrother said...

(1) I don't think you got "that" right. The article is about a book which appears to be about the friction betwee Western intellectuals who have abandoned the principles of the Enlightenment and Islamic dissenters who want them to more vigorously adhere to Enlightenment principles in the face of the growing antithesis to Enlightenment principles: political Islam.

Although I've already previewed Ian Buruma's book for you (back in my Christmas List 2008), I will republish that here.


Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerance, Ian Buruma

A journalist returned to his native Holland to explore the story and the meaning of an infamous and violent crime, in which a young man born to Moroccan parents repeatedly shot and sliced a prominent Dutch filmmaker in the middle of a busy street, stabbed a note into his chest, and walked away. This book is the finished product. The book’s subtitle is a misnomer insofar as it does not detail what the limits of tolerance are, but Mr. Buruma does provide a broad spectrum of thought on the subject, including the perspective of the killer himself. Most arresting is the portrait of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a foreign-born ex- and anti-Muslim politician, who desperately wants the West to be more active in its defense of traditional liberalism (i.e., liberalism in rights like free speech), who must move from location to location in secrecy and under armed guard. Holland itself is a character, and a peculiar one at that. This is the most engrossing work of non-fiction I have read since Laura Wexler’s Fire in a Canebreak four years ago. It is just damned interesting.

[I have deleted a passage regarding the person to whom I recommended this book.]

Life lesson I took from this book: though you have the absolute right to do so, making a movie that projects sexist verses from the Qur’an onto naked female bodies might get you killed.

patsbrother said...

(2) Are you joking about your confusion as to what constitutes a "Western intellectual"? Really?