10/21/10

Ruse on Harris

Too much personal invective, not enough ethics. That's the short version.  See here.

The "devil runs hell" poll is turning out different from what I'd expected.  It closes soon...

8 comments:

amos said...

I usually side with the under-dog and the outsider, but in the case of Sam Harris, I make an exception.

Jean Kazez said...

I liked Sam Harris's first book too much to ever be seriously anti-Sam. It's really excellent, I think. I quoted him and cited the book approvingly in my own first book:-)

Faust said...

I'm afraid my predictions about the fate of this book were sadly dead on. In my opinion however, a lot of this could be predicted from the first. All this stuff is in the first book, it's just in the background and really the secondary topic.

Aeolus said...

Damnation! The poll has closed just as the Devil was closing the gap. Of course the Devil runs Hell. Who else? It's not a workers' cooperative -- unless there's been a revolution recently. And the Devil wears a red suit and carries a pitchfork. I thought everyone knew these things. A philosophically more interesting question would have been: Does the Devil use his pitchfork on children who won't eat their vegetables?

("The Devil does not exist" is not a legitimate response to the question in the poll, anymore than "Harry Potter does not exist" would be an acceptable response to the question "Does Harry Potter attend Hogwarts?")

amos said...

I have a prejudice against those who attribute all the world's evil to one big cause, be it religion, impiety, big government, capitalism,
U.S. imperialism......

Jean Kazez said...

Aeolus, Hopefully the devil uses his pitchfork on people who throw around the word "liar" carelessly. Who else could run hell, but the devil? What about....God?

Jean Kazez said...

Faust, What did you think of Book I? Did you like?

I think he was like the kid in the Emperor's New Clothes when he wrote that, and to be congratulated for speaking up. The thing is, that was then, this is now. (Deep....) In this book, he doesn't come across as the solitary, brave kid, but as a member of a group that keeps saying the same stuff. In fact, there are rants in this book that are almost canonical, like the 15 page Collins rant that Ruse calls "repellent".

Faust said...

What did I think about book 1.... hmmm.

Well. I thought he was very impressive in a number of respects. These would be:

1. His ability to deftly reduce complex issues into accessible language.

2. His powerful rhetoric. Harris is a skilled rhetorician. I don't think anyone can dispute that, and since it was his first book there was (some) restraint in it that made his rhetoric even better.

So those are my positives.

Negatives would be the uneveness of the argumentation. The book contains some pretty bad arguments, bold assertions that are not backed up very well at all, and plenty of strawmen. Furthermore, because I belong to that group of bad relativists that Harris et al dislike so much, I think I saw a bunch of stuff that simply flew by you: if you're not the target of an argument, if you already agree on the broad strokes, you're not going to pick up on certain things. If you're the TARGET of an argument, you're going to be more sensitized to it. Harris has done very little to suprise since EOF, he's firmly expanded on all his initial points.

I do think he gets big props for starting a new conversation, or rejuvenating, popularizing whatever you want to call it.

That's his main contribution, and probably his best.