Monday, May 03, 2010

Gray Vs Grayling

The raison d'etre of a career in academia is to savage your opponents in print under the pretext of a book review, and thereby destroy their life's work within a few carefully worded paragraphs. Hence the spats that occur amongst the intelligencia are among the most entertaining reading.

Since things have been a bit quiet here recently, here is a synopsis of a recent argument conducted between the political philosopher John Gray and the philosopher and prominent humanist A.C Grayling. Some time ago, A.C Grayling attacked John Gray's book, 'Black Mass, Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia' in the pages of the 'New Humanist' (the mouthpiece of the 'Rationalist Association'). John Gray has now returned the favour with Graylings 'Ideas that Matter' in 'The National Interest' (the prominant conservative rag which published Fukyama's now infamous 'The End of History'). In it he writes:

From where, then, do modern liberal values derive? Why, from ancient Greece, of course. Retelling an old rationalist fairy tale, Grayling writes in the entry on justice, “the ancient Greeks were, as with so many things, the first to rate the possession of a sense of justice, and moreover one on which one acts, as a virtue.” Well, so much for the Hebrew prophets. Again, in the entry on Buddhism he asserts that “the Greeks assumed that we are individuals, and as such are ethical agents responsible for ourselves and what we do,” and created a “new ethics of civic, intellectual and moral virtue.” On the contrary, what is most striking about the ancient Greeks is that they had hardly any sense of the human individual as being independent of society, and having rights against it. After all, Socrates never contested the right of the Greek polis to put him to death.

Reading Grayling, it is hard to resist the impression that he believes Western civilization would be much improved if it did not include the Judeo-Christian inheritance. Absurd as it is, there is nothing new in such a claim. It is one of the most venerable clich├ęs of Enlightenment thinking, and
Ideas that Matter is a compendium of such dated prejudices.

Grayling has now authored a short reply in response, saying that:

I am delighted to have been reviewed at such length in The National Interest by John Gray, whom I was beginning to suspect of too impervious a dignity ever to respond to the repeated bashings I have had to give his views over the last several years.

Reading this, I am compelled to conclude there is only one way to decide the question of the relative success or failure of the enlightenment project and the contested source of western values and that's IN THE RING. Tickets go on sale next week.


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15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grayling with a hard left! Gray counters with a hard right!

... and that's about the only joke I could think of. Maybe we can work Terry Eagleton in there as Ivan Drago since he's a communist and all.

Humphrey said...

Personally I think it was a scandal that Dolph Lundgren was overlooked for an Oscar for his role as Ivan Drago. It could be admitted that he only had two lines in the whole movie, but he delivered them beautifully, including the poignant 'I must break you' and 'If he dies....he dies'.

Anonymous said...

Well, Dolp actually said a few more lines in the move. But they were in Russian...

Personally, I thought his best work was "Red Scorpion".

Nick Milne said...

A delightful and little known fact: Dolph Lundgren's first love was chemical engineering, in which he holds a Master's degree and for the study of which he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship at MIT. He went into acting instead, though, so here we are.

Humphrey said...

Another Dolph Lundgren fact; armed robbers burst into his house one night and tied up his wife. They cut short the raid however, when they glanced over at a family photo and saw Dolph Lundgren in it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1173697/Burglars-tie-woman--flee-house-realise-shes-married-action-hero-actor-Dolph-Lundgren.html?ITO=1490

Matko said...

Another Dolph Lundgren fact: He's a pious Lutheran.

Anonymous said...

Gray vs Grayling:

Whoever wins...we lose!

Anonymous said...

I believe you are misusing that tagline, it actually belongs to "Grayling vs. Predator"

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't that be "publicly rapped"? (see text in picture quoting from A.C.'s response). Could've been worse, I suppose, at least he didn't write "pubicly wrapped". Philosophers who can't spell, what is the world coming to?

Anonymous said...

Then again, boxers do tape their fingers before donning their gloves, so maybe "wrapped" is quite appropriate in this context.

Anonymous said...

Having thrice responded in the affirmative he enjoined his interlocutor to insperse the liquid under discussion in such a fashion as to render it ubiquitous, or as Henry Cooper would have said: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, splash it all over."

Kurt said...

but he delivered them beautifully, including the poignant 'I must break you' and 'If he dies....he dies'.

You forgot "you will lose".

Matt said...

My favorite Dolph quote: "I have the power!"

Perplexed Seeker said...

Gah. A most unedifying spectacle. Gray and Grayling both have exactly one idea for a book each, which they have written different versions of, over and over again, for years now. Nevertheless I have a horrible feeling that Gray is far, far closer to reality than Grayling is. Perhaps I'm being overly pessimistic, but more of the same seems infinitely more probable on any account than an endless, atheist utopia of smiling children and rainbows.

I can't seriously believe, though, that Grayling's seriously still using the "communism works, it has just never been properly tried!" line. Surely Gray is misquoting him there?

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