This book is a great introduction to Rorty. I've read one of his more technical books - 'Contingency, Irony and Solidarity' - and this one was much ea...moreThis book is a great introduction to Rorty. I've read one of his more technical books - 'Contingency, Irony and Solidarity' - and this one was much easier to get through. The structure of the book is a set of short vignettes that had been previously published plus one new piece at the very end. The articles have only a loose association with one another, so it's possible to jump around or just skip one altogether and not feel as if you're missing the point of the book.
To me, Rorty is an always surprising thinker who defies easy classification. He wholeheartedly believes in the liberal utopia, but brooks no talk of the "postmodern" and actually berates the academy for their lack of patriotism. He believes in the dream, but thinks it has been squandered by identify politics and endless deconstruction. I guess I enjoy his belief in America (and the world) to constantly re-invent itself. And I like that he follows that belief to it's logically conclusion - that truth is essentially invention.
He seems a sensible individual, and for better or worse, I'm sucker for sensible arguments.(less)
I've read a few of Armstrong's books, but it was many years ago. I came to this one by accident - I was sitting next to a gentlemen on a flight and he...moreI've read a few of Armstrong's books, but it was many years ago. I came to this one by accident - I was sitting next to a gentlemen on a flight and he was reading it. I'm certainly glad I picked it up.
Based upon the title, I though the book was going to be a plea of standard conversion to Christianity, which was surprising from what I know about Armstrong's own struggles. But it was much different than that - Armstrong is trying to make a case for a different conception of God than the one contained within modern culture. At the root, she makes a case for religion as a particularly different (and evolving) way of thinking, rather than a rote set of behaviors and beliefs (a word which Armstrong notes has lost it's original meeting) that people learn and conform to.
Armstrong's claim is that traditional religion used the concept of God as a way to express what lay beyond conscious thought and expression. Contemplation of myths and other mysteries would allow someone to enter and reside in an different mental space. To fully appreciate the power took practice and commitment. And there really was no question of an existence proof. But somewhere along the way, namely when the Enlightenment got involved, God became a concept of original cause, or first mover. Once God became the source of our everyday world, slowly the fights over his existence became relevant and discussions turned more towards proving literal connections rather than understanding and applying old myths. Consequently, the symbolic power of religion to take people to a different type of thinking began to drain away as fights over certainty took center stage.
Armstrong traces this development through the Enlightenment all the way to our current day, where fundamentalist groups of all stripes - Christian, Islamic, Judaic and Atheist - battle over explanations of the world and what's provable.
As someone who's pretty sick of everyone involved in this conversation - from Osteen to Dawkins - I found Armstrong's path much more palatable. And much more useful.(less)