More Sunday reading.
The AFR’s weekend “ReView” section always has great “big picture” articles. Unfortunately, you can’t read them on-line unless you’re a paid up subscriber.
If you get a chance, check out “Extreme Pressure” by Peter Berger, an article originally published in the magazine, “The American Interest.” Back in the days when I was a literature and history student, most professors described themselves as post-modernists or post-structuralists. What that meant…I have no idea…except, perhaps, that no text really had any meaning…and that everything must be studied through the context of politics, race, class, and gender…even if the text in question ultimately had nothing to teach us. Sigh.
Berger’s article shows how relativism and fundamentalism are cut from the same cloth, although they lead to different probelms. It’s too long and serious of an article to sum up in a few words. But here are a few quotations I marked out with my red pen:
- Mondernisation undermines taken-for-granted beliefs and values.
- Through most of human history, most people have lived in communities in which there was a very high degree of consensus on basic cognitive and normative assumptions.
- Everyone now talks about globalisation, and the phenomenon is real enough. But it represents only a vast amplification of the modernising process that began with the great voyages of discovery and the printing press. Information technology in the globalisation era has brought the dynamics of pluralising modernity to all but the most remote corners of the world.
- Every functioning society requires a certain degree of normative consensus, lest it fall apart. No society can tolerate a pluralism of norms concerning intracommunity violence.
- There are moral judgments, which, even if one understands that they are contingent on one’s position in time and space, contain a high degree of certainty.