Fish on Eagleton

The always interesting Stanley Fish also takes a look at Eagleton’s book here. Here are some quotes:

…British critic Terry Eagleton asks, “Why are the most unlikely people, including myself, suddenly talking about God?” His answer, elaborated in prose that is alternately witty, scabrous and angry, is that the other candidates for guidance — science, reason, liberalism, capitalism — just don’t deliver what is ultimately needed.

The other projects, he concedes, provide various comforts and pleasures, but they are finally superficial and tend to the perpetuation of the status quo rather than to meaningful change: “A society of packaged fulfillment, administered desire, managerialized politics and consumerist economics is unlikely to cut to the depth where theological questions can ever be properly raised.”

“Self-sufficient” gets to the heart of what Eagleton sees as wrong with the “brittle triumphalism” of liberal rationalism and its ideology of science. From the perspective of a theistic religion, the cardinal error is the claim of the creature to be “self-originating”: “Self-authorship,” Eagleton proclaims, “is the bourgeois fantasy par excellence,..”

Science, says Eagleton, “does not start far back enough”; it can run its operations, but it can’t tell you what they ultimately mean or provide a corrective to its own excesses. Likewise, reason is “too skin deep a creed to tackle what is at stake”; its laws — the laws of entailment and evidence — cannot get going without some substantive proposition from which they proceed but which they cannot contain; reason is a non-starter in the absence of an a prior specification of what is real and important, and where is that going to come from? Only from some kind of faith.

“All reasoning is conducted within the ambit of some sort of faith, attraction, inclination, orientation, predisposition, or prior commitment.” Meaning, value and truth are not “reducible to the facts themselves, in the sense of being ineluctably motivated by a bare account of them.” Which is to say that there is no such thing as a bare account of them. (Here, as many have noted, is where religion and postmodernism meet.)

Fish ends his review of Eagleton’s book by noting that the tone toward the end of the book seems to become angrier. Fish ponders why this might be so. One of the reasons, he speculates, might be this:

The other source of his anger is implied but never quite made explicit. He is angry, I think, at having to expend so much mental and emotional energy refuting the shallow arguments of school-yard atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins. I know just how he feels.

Frankly, I do too.

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3 Responses to Fish on Eagleton

  1. Burk Braun says:

    <>Depth charge<><>Theists claim to be deep. Far deeper than atheists. To deep for atheists to even understand.

    Lackey quotes Fish reviewing Eagleton:

    “The other source of his anger is implied but never quite made explicit. He is angry, I think, at having to expend so much mental and emotional energy refuting the shallow arguments of school-yard atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins. I know just how he feels.”

    “Frankly, I do too.”

    What are we to make of this argument from depth? Is it simply an avoidance of an argument from reason? Is it a cover for an argument from feeling, which is characterized as depth to seem more content-rich and irrefutable than it actually is?

    “All reasoning is conducted within the ambit of some sort of faith, attraction, inclination, orientation, predisposition, or prior commitment.” Meaning, value and truth are not “reducible to the facts themselves, in the sense of being ineluctably motivated by a bare account of them.” Which is to say that there is no such thing as a bare account of them.”

    Or is it an attempt to circumvent reason altogether- to say that I have my predisposition, you have yours, and you can not say anything based on your so-called reason to shake my faith, even though I can say that you are a scurrilous, shallow, blasphemous, damned unbeliever? Indeed, I have reason on my side, at least reason based on my presuppostions, which include that Christ was borne of a virgin, performed miracles, and rose bodily on the third day into heaven.

    Who is being shallow here? How is it that any faith position or presuppostion is OK as long as it accepts the authority of the one, true, and apostolic church? How did serious people, like those quoted above, come to believe that premises of arguments are not fair game for analysis? Would they as cheerfully accept the premises of Islam, of Animism, of Voodoo?

    Reason is not so easily fenced in, however. If one’s meanings, value, and truth are based on the thrice-retold parables of wild-eyed millennial mystics of yore, they may accord with mythical and psychological truths- with human feelings, appropriately guided and hypnotized. But they are not bound to have much to do with truth as commonly (or philosophically) understood.

    No, this has nothing to do with reason or truth at all. It amounts simply to theists saying that they feel the universe move when worshipping Jesus, and atheists do not. Whether atheists get their freak off in some other way is not really considered, but assumed to be irrelevant, since theism is, after all true. I mean true to their feelings, or at least conducive to certain feelings, which feel deep.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Counter Depth Charge Fails to Explode due to Operator Error:
    Atheist defends position by using the same arguments their opponents have just revealed to be shallow.

    “What are we to make of this argument from depth? Is it simply an avoidance of an argument from reason? Is it a cover for an argument from feeling, which is characterized as depth to seem more content-rich and irrefutable than it actually is?”

    No it’s an argument based upon the realization your opponent has no idea what’s being asserted and therefore can only make the same erroneous argument over and over.

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  3. Burk Braun says:

    You might enjoy a semi-humorous but also serious < HREF="http://books.google.com/books?id=s3QmotUe3rUC&pg=PR16&lpg=PPR15#PPR15,M1" REL="nofollow">meditation<> on this faith vs reason debate.

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