Thursday, February 14, 2008


Interesting post from Mark Rowlands at Secular Philosophy:
To a considerable extent it is society that has decided what is and what is not emotionally aberrant. What you should and should not feel when your most cherished beliefs are attacked is, in part, socially determined, and so what you actually do or do not feel is, to a considerable though not exhaustive extent, socially constructed. This is a theme brilliantly explored by J.M. Coetzee in various novels, most notably The Lives of Animals. And, for one reason or another, our society has determined that emotional outpourings of a sort that would be regarded as aberrant in the case of other beliefs are perfectly legitimate in the case of religious beliefs...

Part of what is involved in being an adult – part of the wonder of growing up – is being both able and willing to have one’s beliefs subjected to critical examination without existentially shrivelling in the process. If society discourages us from this by making us believe that extraordinary outpourings of emotion are OK in connection with certain beliefs rather than others, then society is simply trying to prolong our childhood. And if anyone doubts, or is interested in, the rise and rise of infantilization in contemporary society, I heartily recommend Michael Bywater’s Big Babies.

If Christians ask themselves ‘what would Jesus do?’ philosophers should, it seems, ask themselves, ‘What would Socrates do?’ It’s a long time since I read any of the Platonic dialogues, but if my memory is not deceiving me, Thrasymachus didn’t break down when Socrates cast doubt on his claim that ‘justice is the advantage of the stronger.’ But even if he had, I don’t think it would have stopped Socrates.


  1. whenever someone tells me a certain action is childish it makes me want fight them just to show how stupid that argument is.

    An argument like 'doing X is bad because it is childish' is completely arse backwards.

  2. Perhaps the point is better phrased in positive terms, as a matter of developing autonomy, etc.

  3. It much easier to see that a host of a string of actions or behaviors is childish. Like not knowing when prolonging an argument will not contribute to reconcilliation or further comensurate two divergent positions. Persistence and the tyranny that accompanies it in the instance described above could be construed as childish, or 'self-absorbed to the point of myopia'.


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