In a radio interview with Dan Rodricks last week, I used the term "character fundamentalism" to indicate a kind of thinking that, while not explicitly religious, was nevertheless fundamentalist and iniquitous to a functioning democracy.


I just posted an excerpt from chapter three of In Defense of Religious Moderation on the blog Religion in American History (http://usreligion.blogspot.com/). As the editor, Paul Harvey, notes, the "post is particularly timely here after the events in Norway and yesterday's commemoration of 9/11, both of which suggest that the ancient ideal of moderation still has an awful lot going for it."


In Defense of Religious Moderation is due out this week, but a foretaste of the critical reaction is already starting to seep in.


The book I've been blogging occasionally about for the last year or more is now coming out in June. I've just written this op-ed piece to accompany its release:


In Alex Gibney's documentary "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer," which is now available on Netflix's "instant queue," the ex-governor of New York at times refers to himself as the protagonist of a modern Greek tragedy, which caused me to puzzle over which tragic hero of classical antiquity would be his most fitting role model.


Q: What are everyday fundamentalisms?

Physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow have recently used the term "model-dependent realism" to talk about the extent to which humans can approximate knowledge of the world as it really is, independent of our senses and the media we use to grasp it. The idea is basically that different conditions require different models of reality, and there is no sense at all in talking about a model-free reality.


As I am about to criticize the idea of "moral truth" in the paragraphs that follow, let me begin by saying that I am not defending moral relativism. As Sam Harris points out in his recent book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Moral Values, "one can reasonably doubt whether any consistent moral relativist has ever existed."


The notion that philosophers have their heads in the clouds is one of the oldest in the book. Make that a specific book; as Alexander George points out in a recent contribution to The Stone, Aristophanes used it to ridicule Socrates in The Clouds.


By any objective measure, it would seem that Barack Obama's first year and a half in office has been among the most effective in history.


Chomskyans like Steven Pinker make two claims that at first blush seem to make strange bedfellows.


William Egginton's picture
William Egginton
William Egginton is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches on Spanish and Latin American literature, literary theory, and the relation between literature and philosophy. He is the author of How the World Became a Stage (2003), Perversity and Ethics (2006), A Wrinkle in History (2007), The Philosopher's Desire (2007), The Theater of Truth (2010), and In Defense of Religious Moderation (2011). He is also co-editor with Mike Sandbothe of The Pragmatic Turn in Philosophy (2004), translator of Lisa Block de Behar's Borges, the Passion of an Endless Quotation (2003, 2nd edition 2014), and co-editor with David E. Johnson of Thinking With Borges (2009). His most recent book is The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered In the Modern World (2016).