Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

February 28, 2008

Must Reading:Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:11 pm

From the newly revived World Affairs Journal which also features important essays by George Packer and Alan Wolfe, the must-read is called “Backbone, Berman and Buruma”, a polemic that skillfully puts paid to the cowardly moral relativism that uses terms like “Enlightenment fundamentalism” to bash brave activists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and liberal political historians like Paul Berman.

It turns out, in the account by Peter Collier of the near-pathological need for certain British intellectuals to attack and/or condescend to Hirsi Ali that their reflexive intellectual appeasement is not shared by all European intellectuals.. “The Swedish intellectual Lars Gustafson,” Collier writes, “was disturbed by the rancid implication [of “Enlightenment fundamentalism” as a term of abuse] that the Enlightenment was just another set of dogmas, in no way different from, and no more universal than those of Islam.” (or of any religion, I’d add).

It’s sad there are so few defenders of Enlightenment values to be found especially among those who most benefit from it. The essay is heartening but also dispiriting in the sense that one knows it is the exception rather than the rule and to my mind, the fatal weakness of the Enlightenment, the license it gives to deaf, dumb and blind moral relativism that excuses the stoning of women and the hanging of gays under the banner of multiculturalism, will doom the brief reign of the Enlightenment to defeat by fanaticism.



  1. Alexander Pope, Saint-Beuve, Toulouse-Lautrec, Margaret Fuller, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone Weil and Cyril Connolly were all, in the words of Timothy Garton Ash, “short, squat and squinting” and it was precisely the Enlightenment that put them on a level playing field with the bad and the beautiful. Physical beauty makes the target all the more apparent: Ms. Bhutto was striking, and struck.

    Comment by charlie finch — February 28, 2008 @ 6:23 pm | Reply

  2. Atlas Shrugs.

    Comment by Barry Poladsky (Perfected Democrat) — February 29, 2008 @ 2:13 am | Reply


    Ron, I tried to post this in response to your Nabokov piece (both on Slate and then the one on this site), but with no success. I think you should read the article linked above in its entirety. I had made up my mind about the issue until I read it.

    I’m a big fan of yours, by the way. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Diana — March 1, 2008 @ 6:42 pm | Reply

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