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Old 12-22-2011, 04:08 PM
basman basman is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 648
Default Re: The Week in Blog: Lightning Is Delicious (Bill Scher & Kristen Soltis)

Originally Posted by Florian View Post
Ohreally is known for his hyperbole, but there is certainly some truth to what he said. Hitchens was, I agree, a superior journalist, a superb rhetorician and literary stylist, but...... The last years of his life, filled with tedious proclamations of atheism and even more tedious proclamations of the imperial mission of the United States to bring democracy to Iraq and the Middle East, do not exactly distinguish him as a man of ideas. His arguments against religion were neither profound nor original (his ranting about "Islamofascism" was original but rather crazy); his enthusiasm for the neo-cons and state-building in the Middle East was no more interesting than the radicalism of his youth, when the foreign policy of United States was the root of all evil.

Admittedly he always defended his "ideas" with panache.
Well, this response has the virtue of being in the form of an argument with examples.

I'll tender first the distinction between being an academic philosopher (or a non academic one) and being a man of ideas. Obviously, the former is not a necessary condition of the latter.

Secondly, I'll tender the more semantic distinctions between being a man of ideas and a disintguished man of ideas, and between being a man of ideas one agrees with and a man of ideas one disagrees with, the predicate remaining the same nonetheless.

I think Hitchens was knowingly engaged in a kind of culture war against religion and entered the popular fray. If one reads current academic philosophy journals or academic philospophical writings on the existence of God, one, unless an academic philosopher, will quickly become bogged down in the incredibly arcane and the incredibly hair splitting of the incessant logical analysis of propositions. None of the new atheists, to my understanding, claimed originality for their arguments. Rather those I have read, including Hitchens, framed the exisiting arguments, pro and con, in their own way to inveigh and argue against a predominant cultural sensibility sustained by magical thinking and superstititon and replete with example after example of terrible consequences. Here tedium lies in the impatience of the bored, whose boredom I'd respect as much as I'd expect them to respect my interest.

On Hitchens's view of American foreigh policy, he was certainly unmainstream but he was part of a respectable line of argument on these matters and it was good, at least to my ears and eyes, not always agreeing, to hear and read his bracing, counter-conventional, unpietal, unrepentant talk and writing, putting the case he did as well as he did and then listening to and reading good arguments against.

Finally, what Hitchens was, to the end of his days, was a writer as public intellectual. If you travel down his many prose paved roads, it's hard not to be impressed by the breadth and depth of his erudition, his making and refuting of an argument, his compelling sensibility and, as acknowledged, his superb prose.

So I maintain he was to the end a man of ideas.

Here is the estimable George Packer, with no school girl crush on Hitchens, and in fundamental disagreement with him on on the U.S. mid east project, on Hitchens's last decade:

...September 11, 2001, put Hitchens in touch with the molten anti-clericalism that was one of his elemental passions. It burned so hot that he turned it without a second thought at a secular, totalitarian Iraqi dictator. 9/11 gave Hitchens a sense of purpose like nothing since that early intimation, the Rushdie fatwa. It propelled him straight through the last, most productive, most visible decade of his life...



What more can be wanted of a guy?

He can be deeply disagreed with, strongly faulted for his evident warts, but, for sure, and at a minimum, he cannot be easily and callowly dismissed.

Itzik Basman

Last edited by basman; 12-22-2011 at 06:28 PM..
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