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Saturday, August 2, 2003

Genesis for grown-ups.

"Nothing mitigates Genesis's skepticism about the nature of humanity. As a religious book Genesis is dark and troubling. Its skepticism, common to many religious traditions, also gives religion a peculiar place in modern societies. It can seem illiberal and threatening: it sees limits on humanity's abilities to perfect itself through the use of reason alone," writes Edward Rothstein (reg req'd) about Leon R. Kass's new book, The beginning of wisdom: Reading Genesis.

I've never bought the humanist line on human perfectability — I can't sing "Wonders still the world shall witness" without wanting to laugh — but I think there are liberal ways to acknowledge limits on human perfectability. Of course, you have to abandon the notion of utopia and may need to embrace "agonistic pluralism," ala Isaiah Berlin. The humanistic starting point might be: "I am a human being; nothing human is alien to me" — a truly humbling doctrine when you take off your rose-colored spectacles. More on this idea over the next two weeks, I promise . . .

Update 8.4.03: Speaking of "wonders still the world shall witness," whatever happened to the miraculous future we were predicted to be living in by now? Calpundit provides a score-card!

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 2 August 2003 at 2:39 PM

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