Monday, 20 April 2009
Note apropos Eagleton : liberal v tragic
I added this comment to an old post of The Plump's (I'll get to meet him tomorrow in Hull). Just a note here seeing this blog is, among other things, a record of thoughts and impressions.
'The straight proposition, as I understand it, is that rather than thinking in terms of religion or lack of (Islam v Christianity, Islam v Atheism, Christianity v. Atheism) one might consider Islamism, say, as a cultural aspect of a specific religion. Not all Islam has to be Islamist, in other words, but there is a kind of culture in which Islamism can flourish as "a repressed that returns with a vengeance". (I always tend to worry about that particular repressed).
The terms are awkward of course and he [Eagleton] goes by his own definitions, which is, I think, the chief problem. It is fascinating how this kind of reversal, in which you point to a phenomenon and call it A, then becomes the definition of A.
What I think he was trying to identify, if I want to be picky about it, were some differences between two kinds of culture: one that works on passion and concentrated group identity, another that works on irony and diffuse individual identity.
Don't you think that such a distinction exists? I watch these two ways of going about life creating havoc in Hungary, and some such distinction seems reasonable to me.
How far civilisation and culture are the best terms I don't know, and may be less important than the phenomena themselves.
The conclusion he draws at the end is, I suppose, a continuation of the spat with Amis, but when he says -
"The distinction between Hitchens or Dawkins and those like myself comes down in the end to one between liberal humanism and tragic humanism. There are those who hold that if we can only shake off a poisonous legacy of myth and superstition, we can be free. Such a hope in my own view is itself a myth, though a generous-spirited one. "
- I can't help thinking there is something in this. That, if you like, the conflict isn't between the religious sense and the anti-religious sense, but between the liberal and the tragic.
I would like to think the liberal has the last word, but I have a certain apprehension that the tragic usually has its say, and telling people that religion is a lot of rubbish is not going to solve it.'
Just a note, as I say. It's not a point of ideology or dogma, just the registering of a certain feeling.