Excerpt from Terry Eagleton’s book Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate
Posted by andreasw on Aug 11, 2010 at 3:47 am
Eagleton’s book has many sections that I’d love to post here, but this is a particularly good point that he makes:
“Postmodernism is allergic to the idea of certainty, and makes a great deal of theoretical fuss over this rather modest everyday notion. As such, it is in some ways the flip side of fundamentalism… Some postmodern thought suspects that all certainty is authoritarian. It is nervous of people who sound passionately committed to what they say. In this, it represents among other things, an excessive reaction to fascism and Stalin-ism. The totalitarian politics of the twentieth century did not only launch an assault on truth in their own time; they also helped to undermine the idea of truth for future generations. The line between holding certain noxious kinds of belief, and holding strong beliefs at all, then becomes dangerously unclear. Conviction itself is condemned as dogmatic.”
It’s striking to see how much our deeply held ideas about life have been shaped by historical events over half a century ago. As Bergson said, we can feel “the presence of the past” in every moment. But the best part of all of this is the fact that these anti-progress, anti-evolutionary, anti-conviction structures in ourselves and in culture are JUST that—cultural habits that can be transformed. We don’t have to live in the shadow of the World Wars forever, and we can still take up the mantle of evolution with the same passion as our evolutionary forebears did. Of course, thanks to the incredible lessons we’ve learned from the failed Utopian experiments and blind belief in human progress of the past century, we can now approach cultural evolution with a new-found appreciation for the difficulty and complexity that creating heaven on earth brings to the table! And that’s the challenging and beautiful task we have before us.