Here's a very nice (and funny) "defense of motherhood" from Bonnie Rochman at time.com, who links to my recent TPM article on motherhood.
Speaking of that article, in the same issue of TPM there's an essay by David Benatar about how life's not good, and we should stop procreating. His "share its" are phenomenal. People seem to be intensely attracted to bad news!
I'm talking about both my essay and Benatar's at an event next week, so I'm back to pondering Benatar's anti-natalism, a recurrent habit of mine.
I'm making my way through Jackson Lears' mega-bashing of Sam Harris in The Nation. Although Lears seems to want to show that he knows everything about everything, I don't think he knows everything about positivism. The positivists (like A J Ayers in Language, Truth, and Logic) were rejecters of objective morality, not explainers of objective morality like Harris.
Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse write about Mary Warnock's book Dishonest to God at 3 Quarks Daily. (Their review of the book will be in the next issue of TPM.) Apparently she says something positive about the utility of belief, and they complain.
... a defense of religion which rests solely upon considerations regarding the social value of religious belief is ultimately no defense at all. If religious belief is to be defended, it must be understood in terms that religious believers can recognize. According to religious believers, their beliefs are not merely useful social instruments or efficient means for instilling good moral habitsBut there are different senses of "defending" a belief--so why "no defense at all"? You can defend the truth of a belief. but you can also defend the holding of the belief--that might have utility, even if the belief is false. Example -- Most people believe in free will, which raises two separate questions: Is there really free will? And is the holding of the belief functionally advantageous? You could easily think No to the first question and Yes to the second. There might be no coherent defense of there being free will, but a defense of the holding of the belief nevertheless. (For what that defense might look like, see here.)
I don't think recognizing that sort of defense implies throwing truth out the window, or no longer seeing it as the cardinal virtue of beliefs. It just mean recognizing that truth is not all that matters. A functional defense may or may not be "in terms that religious believers can recognize," but I don't see why every defense should fit that description. To defend a belief is not always to address believers directly--to say something to them that strengthens their convictions.
On my reading list: this book about getting old. Good title: You're Looking Very Well: The Surprising Nature of Getting Old (Lewis Wolpert).
Back to grading.