Wednesday, March 29, 2006

People losing their damn minds #11

Our Maddy of the Sorrows - without a shadow of a doubt. She seems to be, as far as one can follow this latest piece of madness, quoting approvingly the philosopher Jonathan Ree* in an exchange with Eric Bronner on the subject of the Enlightenment:

"(T)he Enlightenment had never happened - or at least certainly not in the shape we think it did. It was a retrospective creation in the nineteenth century designed to make the eighteenth century look silly - the gist was that excessive pride in human rationality was a story which had ended in tears in the brutal terror of the French Revolution. Ree pointed out that all the great thinkers attributed to the Enlightenment such as Hume, Locke, Kant were actually religious believers and none of them believed in progress."
No, it isn't just you - I've read and re-read the above; it actually makes less sense than it did when I first read it. And it didn't make any sense then at all - a low base to start from, I think you'll agree.

Where to begin? Chronology all skew-whiff, Hume now part of the God-squad, no, I know Nietzsche didn't believe in progress either, he makes an appearance further down and Maddy's understanding (sic) of rationality has been shaped by him and two of his baldest fans - Freud and Foucault - in that this rationality vibe is a 'social construct', like man, Nietzsche's other fan, Weber, doesn't get a look-in because he had too much hair, or could be our Maddy's never heard of him, you decide, French-fucking-Revolution, no its legacy of the Rights of Man doesn't get a mention, since you ask, neither does the Industrial Revolution, with the whole increase in human welfare by any objective measure you might consider using, because these objective measures - like life expectancy, sheer level of human life, including bleedin' Guardian journalists, the goddam planet can sustain might be a 'social construct' and as such an 'illusion', which would come as news to anyone who's heard of Malthus, as it would to anyone benefiting from vaccination against diseases that used to decimate populations, which people assumed to be the wrath of God, but this doesn't stop our Madds from asking the question:
"why do we want to resurrect bits of our intellectual history?"
Well in your case anyway, the hope that it might go at least some way toward ameliorating your bionic insanity immediately suggests itself as a possibility.

Ms Bunting - done gone and lost her damn mind. She actually said, "I'm no philosopher" - surely in the context the three most superfluous words in the history of journalism?

*I should stress that this is Ms Bunting's version of what he said and not a direct quote. Yes, I'd imagine he'll want to sue too.

Update: Calmer people than me have dealt with this. Norm needed a drink or two, but nevertheless seems much calmer:

"From the same post I learn that the Enlightenment was a conspiracy against Islam and that it never happened. I learn that rationality is a social construction, and so can never be objective - which leaves me perfectly free to think both that rationality is a social construction and that it also isn't one, and that rationality is always indispensable while being, too, quite unnecessary. I'm challenged (in the same post) to answer the question why anyone might think a 200-year-old idea could still be useful, as if ideas were like sausages; and to explain why people - especially self-styled 'hard liberals' - have just discovered the Enlightenment."
And Andrew Anthony deals with it too. We don't know if he needed a drink - probably did - but he too seems relatively chilled:
"Finally, Bunting asks, "What is it about the Enlightenment that people are now taking it off the shelf to polish up and put forward as their political and intellectual credentials?" Well, only intellectual liberty, scientific rigour and freedom from tyranny. Maybe that all seems quaintly 18th century to Bunting but, call me a hard liberal, I don't see anything better on the horizon. Or put it this way, I prefer the ring of "Comment is free" to "Comment is regulated by the religious authorities".

Does that help?"
I think Maddy's beyond help, but I feel much better. And here's Marcus. No reference to needing a drink - possibly because it was too early in the morning:
"Similarly it beggars belief that we are being asked to swallow the idea that the Enlightenment was a Nineteenth Century construct - unless she wants us to believe that the constitution of the United States and the laws of the first French republic were backdated forgeries actually drafted 100 years after the dates on the face of them."
Yep - Enlightenment as a sort of Roswell cover-up conspiracy; it's a very strong field in which to compete but this surely has to be the most insane thing Maddy has ever written? There's a few valiant souls in the comments under Maddy's original post who are struggling to cope with the sheer volume of lunacy.

She actually titled the post, "Enlighten me".

Ok, you're barking mad but you get paid to write articles for the Guardian. This makes you a very lucky woman - most people in your condition just get sectioned, ok? Feel 'enlightened' yet? You really should, sister, you really should.

Update #2: Oh my sainted aunt - the madness is spreading. Warped Plank have pitched in with a post entitled, "Not as silly as she sounds". Ah, but she is.

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