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The good, the bad, and the ugly.
on June 16, 2001
I read this book hoping for a much needed clarion call for a return to tradition, a la Rene Guenon and Fritjof Schuon, et al. I was somewhat dissappointed. Anyway:
The good. In this book, Huston Smith a professor of religion presents a series of essays about overcoming the post-modern (or as it's now spelled "postmodern") worldview and re-establishing metaphysics with an emphasis on transcendence. He presents a unique Weltanschauung based upon the world's major religions and a return to traditionalist thought. In this much, I agree with him. His version of perennialism, the primordial philosophy, is far better than the nonsense that passes for philosophy under the guise of post-modernism (postmodernism).
The bad. The problem is that Smith seems to think that all the evils of the West can be attributed to that universal bugbear science, and its growing infiltration into the humanities and philosophy. He is correct in that science is the guiding principle (dare I say, religion) of our times. However, the problem is that he takes this anti-scientism to an absurd extreme. Saying that science (and it's practical application in technology) is the sole cause of the loss of transcendence within our worldview is about as goofy as saying that it can be blamed on "mixing with inferior races". For instance, while the Darwinian theory certainly has problem areas and is ultimately rooted (in perhaps suspect) philosophical assumptions, his dismissal of it strikes me as incredibly facile. At the risk psychologizing things, and thereby engaging in a veiled argumentum ad hominem, I believe his problem with science might best be explained as a personal dislike attributable to working as a professor of religion and philosophy at MIT, a school devoted almost entirely to science and engineering. Perhaps a little bitterness at his colleagues crept in here. Sorry for that.
The ugly. Finally, it's a minor point, but good heavens. Someone needs to tell this guy that outside of the snooty confines of academia no one gives a care about whether you refer to them as "humans", "man", "woman", "womyn", or whatever. Chiding G. K. Chesterton (a conservative Catholic writer) for not being politically correct and referring to humanity in the masculine form "man" is about as ridiculous as someone saying Hitler's _Mein Kampf_ is "marred by an anti-Jewish bias". Sorry for that, but these things need to be said folks. It gets annoying.