Picked up and started Dawkins’ A Devils Chaplain last night, but more of that in a minute.
I also picked-up on impulse, a copy of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy, Who Needs It ? – having seen how many books she’d published, but knowing nothing about her I thought, I’d dip my toe in and find out. She’s hailed as the greatest ever salesman for Philosophy in the sleeve notes. This is a book of essays written in 1975 to 1980 but published shortly after she died in 1982. The first essay is a speech she made at a West Point officers passing out parade. Terrifying stuff. If you were to replace Kant with Bin Laden and Existentialists with Al Qaeda, it could have been Dubya addressing the nation – Kant is the greatest evil to be driven out, Existentialists are his loyal henchmen, USA is the greatest and the only moral nation. In fairness the main message, a pep talk to these graduating officers, is banish self-doubt, objectivist reason is king, choose your own philosophy (as long as its mine), you’ll need one to make important decisions in your life, don’t just accept received wisdom, don’t just go with the herd, get out there and argue with confidence, etc. But why such vehement reactionary rhetoric of evil against those with whom she disagrees, who fail to worship at the altar of objectivism ? Some of my best friends are American, but …. etc. This is going to be a tough one to finish if she carries on like this.
Dawkins on the other hand – well actually he’s also on quite a rant, against “irrational” religion in his case. Time to stand-up and be counted he says – no more place for political correctness in pussy-footing around religious views – 9/11 was the final straw – religion is and has been not only the cause of most conflict in the world, but also the most unnecessary cause of anything. (See also the acknowledgement in the footer to my blog pages, where I didn’t quite have Dawkins’ courage it has to be said.). This book is also a collection of essays and other pieces, including a lament and the eulogy for Douglas Adams. So many good quotes – like the Monk in the opening passages of Dirk Gently, who’s there to hold your beliefs for you, even things they woudn’t believe in Salt Lake City. Magic. No secret that Dawkins and Adams were a mutual appreciation society, but as a fan of DNA’s humour, I can see why I find it so easy to take Dawkins seriously.