Tuesday, June 27, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Susan Neiman


Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany.
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Susan Neiman
[T]hough religious thinkers will fight fiercely to show its standpoint to be the one religion really sanctions, each religion has signposts pointing in both ways. One the one hand towards a fundamentalist, authoritarian strain that insists if you want to be faithful you have to crucify your intellect; that is to believe just because your belief is absurd. And on the other hand, each of the three western religions has a rationalist tradition... far from viewing our capacity for reason as threatening our capacity to obey god, this tradition sees thinking as its very fulfillment. There are actually some wonderful Jewish parables, which show God laughing with pleasure as human beings defeat him with a particularly good argument. That is, god would rather be impressed than right on certain Jewish rationalist traditions. So if reason is Godís gift then he meant us to use it even against him if he is wrong or hasty. On this tradition our ability to make sense of the world whether with science or through the right moral actions, is just one more proof of gods goodness.
Neiman quotes
Far less import than your belief of whether god exists is what you think your belief entails. Does it direct your behaviour by rules and commandments that are set out before you or does it require you to think them through yourself? Does it require you to try to make sense of the world, or does it give up on sense itself? And I think these are the crucial distinctions. Not whether you add belief in a god to them.
Neiman
Like many others, I came to philosophy to study matters of life and death, and was taught that professionalization required forgetting them. The more I learned, the more I grew convinced of the opposite: the history of philosophy was indeed animated by the questions that drew us there




Neiman Susan quotes
The picture of modern philosophy as centered in epistemology and driven by the desire to ground our representations is so tenacious that some philosophers are prepared to bite the bullet and declare the effort simply wasted. Rorty, for example, finds it easier to reject modern philosophy altogether than to reject the standard accounts of its history. His narrative is more polemical than most, but it's a polemical version of the story told in most philosophy departments in the second half of the twentieth century. The story is one of tortuously decreasing interest. Philosophy, like some people, was prepared to accept boredom in exchange for certainty as it grew to middle age.
Neiman Susan
Any ethics that needs religion is bad ethics, and any religion that tries to do so is bad religion. Of course, there are plenty of both around.
Susan Neiman quotes
[W]e should be clear that neither genuine religious nor genuine moral impulses will ever be expressed in terms that tie the two essentially together. If you view religion as necessary for ethics, youíve reduced us to the ethical level of 4 year olds. "If you follow these commandments youíll go to heaven, if you donít' you'll burn in hell" is just a spectacular version of the carrots and sticks with which you raise your children.
Susan Neiman
Yes, it was.
Neiman Susan quotes
Those who cannot find [moral clarity] are likely to settle for the far more dangerous simplicity, or purity, instead.
Neiman
Iím delighted to hear someone make the claim that there is moral progress because it can be such a incendiary thing to say, and its something that I say and deeply believe in.
Neiman Susan
However long Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians struggle to find multiple meanings in this text, the dominant seems to be this: Abrahamís unquestioning willingness to heed gods command to sacrifice the thing he loved most is what qualified him to become the father of what are called still the Abrahamic faiths.
Susan Neiman
One of the great moral advances of the Enlightenment was abolishing torture. Its interesting to think how far we've come when we think about the fact that 300 years ago in every square of every civilized city, certainly in Europe, torturing people to death was not just that took place, but was something you would've taken your children to go and see on a Saturday afternoon. Right? I mean, that's what was happening. Now, the question is what did people learn, empirically, when they decided, "Oh gosh, drawing and quartering actually causes too much suffering; I think we'll put it out?" I mean, I don't think there's a fact that changed there that somebody had to realize. I think the example, by the way, is particularly important because while it shows that there can be moral progress, it also shows that it's absolutely not necessary, and there can also be moral regression, as in the case of the current administration. But I don't see that what's taking place somehow when Bush decides to legalize torture and thereby cancel one of the major achievements of the Enlightenment (Well he has! Right? I mean many of the achievements of the enlightenment, but that one in particular.) I don't see that what's happened is that there's something that he doesn't know. That he could somehow be tutored on.




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