September 19, 2015

NO MATERIALIST CAN WITHSTAND HIS OWN CRITIQUE:

Who Pulls John Gray's Strings? : a review of The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom, John Gray (GENE CALLAHAN • September 16, 2015, American Conservative)

John Gray, emeritus professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics, is an enigma. He began his intellectual life on the left but moved right in the late 1970s, becoming a fan of Nobel Prize-winning free-market economist F.A. Hayek. Gray's libertarianism was tempered, however, by studying British philosopher Michael Oakeshott's critique of "rationalism in politics." During the 1990s, Gray was associated with New Labour--the center-left ideology that brought Tony Blair to power in Westminster--and he became a prominent critic of global capitalism with his 1998 book False Dawn.

Recently he appears to have embraced something of a nihilistic stoicism, whose spirit suffuses The Soul of the Marionette. In these pages he undertakes a sort of jazz improvisation on the theme of human freedom, surveying an omnium-gatherum of earlier writers' and cultures' thoughts on the topic from the point of view of a "freedom-skeptic." 

Gray sees the modern, supposedly secular belief in human freedom as a creed that will not admit its character: "Throughout much of the world ... the Gnostic faith that knowledge can give humans a freedom that no other creature can possess has become the predominant religion." Gray finds the Gnostic frame of mind even among "hard-headed" scientists [...]

Yet there is a problem with the coherence of Gray's outlook. He urges us to adopt a stoical attitude towards our predicament as marionettes. But if we are free to choose our attitude, why are we not also free to make other choices about our lives? Then again, perhaps Gray isn't really to blame for this incoherence: it could be that some unknown puppeteer, pulling on Gray's strings, made him write this book.

The distinctive contribution of Anglospheric is that it recognizes that Rationalism fails on its own terms. The distinctive nature of the Amnglosphere is to feel perfectly comfortable with this fact and with living life according to Faith instead.



Posted by at September 19, 2015 8:02 AM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« AND ONCE WE HAVE NATIONAL HSAs...: | Main | WE ALL KNOW WHERE WE'RE HEADED: »