On Salon’s: ‘Christopher Hitchens’ lies do atheism no favours’

I’ve discovered something amazing, but first of all.

Not that long ago at university, I wrote an essay that went a little like this:

A ‘thought that has become fixed’[1] and ‘accumulation of values’[2] implies possession as well as fixation; there is a move towards something in the hope of achieving or obtaining. Again, the value is not found in process but in its product, and when this product is finalised or fixed it becomes immortalised as a ‘self-evident truth’[3] or ‘idol’[4].

But this is far from new, as Doherty reveals in his summary of postmodernism, where ‘reason has been reduced to methesis: that is, it has been reduced to a specific form of reason. More importantly, this specific inflection of reason is also now presented as if it were reason-as-such, as if it were the only valid or legitimate form of rational thinking’.

[1] Valéry, ‘Fragments from “Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci”’, 100.
[2] Thiong’o, ‘Decolonising the Mind’, 1134.
[3] Thiong’o, ‘Decolonising the Mind’, 1134.
[4] Valéry, ‘Fragments from “Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci”’, 100.

Which moves into this;

Anderson defines logos by its relationship to mythos, where ‘“mythos” generally means word, speech, or conversation as well as tale, story, or narrative’[1]logos shares aspects of mythos, in that it gives priority ‘to what is delivered in the form of words, as opposed to ergon – work, deed, or action’[2] but ‘one key difference is that mythos lacks the explicit distinction between true and false. This is essential to the meaning of logos. Logos is a form of speaking and writing that seeks to articulate the reason or ground in an attempt to justify or explain’.

[1] Albert A. Anderson, ‘Mythos, Logos, and Telos: How to regain the love of wisdom’ in Mythos and Logos: how to regain the love of wisdom (New York: Editions Rodepi B.V, 2004), pp. 61-75, p.61
[2] Anderson, ‘love of wisdom’, 61.

Which finally (finally) moves into this:

In ‘Mythos, Logos, and Telos: How to regain the love of wisdom’, Albert Anderson examines ‘the distinction between poetry and philosophy’[1], arguing that ‘Plato himself uses both mythos and logos to foster the love of wisdom’[2] in his Republic.

[1] Anderson, ‘love of wisdom’, 61.
[2] Anderson, ‘love of wisdom’, 61.

That ‘Plato shows rather than tells how poetry and philosophy might be blended to achieve forms of writing and speaking that sustain the love of wisdom’ (Anderson, ‘love of wisdom’, 62.).

So why is this important? It’s important because I stumbled upon an article today on Salon.com that seemed to be arguing along a similar line – though attacking from a different angle. It’s an article I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU READ IN FULL, but I will quote some sections here.

Hitchens’s “God Is Not Great” is an intellectually shameful book. To be intellectually shameful is to be dishonest, to tell less than you know, or ought to know, and to shape what you present in a way that misrepresents the real state of affairs.

[…] one enormous problem with Hitchens’s book is that it reduces religion to a series of criminal anecdotes. In the process, however, virtually all of the real history of religious thought, as well as historical and textual scholarship, is simply ignored as if it never existed.

This could be even more complex if we were to throw in the issue of our own perception – in that we may very well subconsciously select information and read it with our own interpretation (an amalgamation of cultural, social and political systems – which are not universal).


But what would Dawkins or Hitchens do with a book like Robert N. Bellah’s “Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age” (Harvard, 2011)? This book is a critique of Western culture operating under the one-sided influence of “theoretic” (scientific) culture, and a historical account of how the theoretic is dependent on the mythic.

Ohh! Mythic! That sounds a lot like mythos… but wait a second:

In a review by Linda Heuman in Tricycle Magazine (Summer 2012), she writes, ‘Bellah simultaneously undermines our unexamined confidence in the absolute authority of reason and increases our confidence in other kinds of truth. . . . In this view of human development, we are first embodied knowers, then storytellers, and only then analytic thinkers. Reason comes not first but last—it is the newest member of an established team, not the captain but a co-player.’

Storytellers. BAM! And from there, why not poetry? It’s certainly a kind of storytelling and, in my essay at least, I go into further depth and outline how it relates to the positive areas of reason.

Curtis White then goes on to argue;

I have “four irreducible objections” (Hitchens’s phrase): he does not acknowledge, and may not recognize at all, his own brand of metaphysics and magical thinking; he does not admit to the destructiveness of this metaphysic; he ignores the spiritual and anti-rational contributions of 19th-and 20th-century literature and philosophy; and his own thinking is ultimately an expression of faith.

It looks as if I may well have been on to something, and that there are other academics out there thinking in a very similar way as I am (though, I’m putting more of an emphasis on the poetic than prosaic). I think I might well get in touch with this Curtis White, I’m sure we’d end up having some interesting conversations…

Perhaps I will look into pursuing a PhD after all, all this academic talk has got me a bit under the collar… there’s no conclusion to this post, it was more a ‘I found something of interest and want to explore it a little more’ posting.

Interesting, nonetheless.


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