Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Philosophy and polemics

Readers of The Last Superstition will find that it is as polemical as it is philosophical. But shouldn't philosophy be non-polemical? No, not always, as I argued in a post at the now defunct Conservative Philosopher group blog which Bill Vallicella kindly archived at his own (highly recommended) site some time back. In light of the publication of TLS it seemed to me a good time to call attention to that post once again, since if anyone has been crying out for a simultaneously polemical and philosophically rigorous response, it is the "New Atheists."


  1. It was definitely helpful to read your old post "Can Philosophy Be Polemical?" As I begin reading your book (which already arrived despite it being rather non-Octoberish) I react again to a more polemical style much as I remember reacting as I turned from the gentle Hayek to the rather blunt Mises and Rothbard.

    This is a tricky issue and it will add a bit of meta fun to watch the choices you make in regards to "Charity, tact, and prudence" in your use of polemics in this book.

    BTW, Thomas Nagel quote (on p. 10) that includes "I hope there is no God!"... Worth the price of the book by itself.

  2. Hi Stephen, hope you enjoy the book. As you know, I think there's a time for polemics but also a time to refrain from them. Nagel is a good example of someone who merits a non-polemical reply. As is indicated by the quote you refer to (and by more recent work of his -- including, incidentally, a critical review he wrote of Dawkins's book), Nagel does not take the cheap and dishonest route toward religion that Dawkins, Dennett, et al. do. He is a serious philosopher who's done important work in the field more generally, especially in philosophy of mind. Were I writing with him in mind, I would take a very different approach.