Friday, 15 January 2010

Grayling and Todorov: Head to head on the Enlightenment

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly):

It seems that some of you loyal readers have noticed that we haven't sent this months's New Humanist yet, judging by the guy who just called the office and said "Where the HELL is my New Humanist". We were far too polite to mention that we don't believe in hell, and instead assured him, as I am assuring you lot, that the magazine in the post and should be with you - if you are a subscriber that is (and if not sort that out) - any day now. What you won't know yet is that the cover story is a discussion between two top philosophers – AC Grayling and Tzvetan Todorov – about the legacy of the Enlightenment. The subject is not new, but they are both such clear and lucid speakers that they make it sound fresh and have fascinating debates about Rousseau, deism, science, human rights and Mars. In the magazine we published a 2,000 word edited version, which we'll put online next week. But to tide you over until your magazine comes, and as a special treat, we have just published the full transcript of the discussion – which took place on 7 Dec 2009, marking the publication of Todorov's brilliantly readable new book In Defence of the Enlightenment. Read the discussion here.


Carol said...

Although the discussion between Grayling and Todorov acknowledges the limitation of reason the mistake is the assumption that the only alternative state is that of the passions. While 20th century Western philosophers point to the existence of a transcendental realm (Kant, Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Popper) the usual assumption is that it is not accessible by human beings. The assupmtion is that the linear mind is the only state in which we can operate the mind. While this might be a reasonable assumption to make on the surface it is still a hypothesis requiring investigation. Western philosophers who do not understand how to access the non-linear mind declare, out of ignorance, that access is not possible. This is a flawed assumption that needs to be tested. It is a profound misinderstanding to state that becoming the authentic self and being independent means lack of interaction with others. In fact, freedom from conditioning results in a profound understanding of the common bond connecting the whole of humanity. This cannot however be understood with the linear mind, it is a non-linear experience. Argument and upset are signs of a lack of emotional intelligence and loss of connection with true nature, not signs of health. No tyranny has ever produced peace. It may have produced a subdued nation with the superficial semblance of peace but this is not the peace of self-actualised individuals. One of the aims of awareness is to root out assumptions since overlooked assumptions paralyse the progress of humanity. For me, this article displayed a disappointing lack of self-awareness on the part of the interlocutors and hence no indication of willingness to explore the possibiity of accessing the non-linear and thereby advance understanding of the human condition.