Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Simon Critchley Philosophizes The Obama Moment

Question: Does Obama’s election signal a desire for a new Enlightenment?

Simon Critchley:   We’re in a situation which is very unusual.  I was born and brought up in England and you know, religion was a thing of the past.  Social democracy was the way of the future and all the rest, the wealth state.

The last couple of decades, in particularly the last decade, have been defined by the marriage of religion and politics, and politics driven by religious conviction, whether that’s George W. Bush or Ozama Bin Laden, and in many ways those two are a lot metaphysical twins in some strange way, and also by believing in violence.  

So, if you were pessimistically to look at the future, you’d say, well, based on what’s happened recently, the future is going to defined by this triangle of religion, politics and violence.  That seems to be where we’re headed and that’s extremely bad news.  Is that likely to change?  I hope so. 

I think I’ve been critical of Obama and some things I’ve read in a book, enormously buoyed out by the decency of what he’s trying to do.  It’s a return to something; basic virtues.  What Obama has done I think, incredibly well is to, as it were, take that idea of religiously motivated politics from the right and to transpose that for Liberals in a way that Liberals can also believe.  Belief isn’t something that they have.  It’s something that we have too and he’s done that by, I think, occupying in an incredibly clever way, the rhetorical space of historically black Christianity but in a way, that doesn’t use that language, the language of say a German might but, which basically uses the language of the founding documents of the United States.  It’s all about we the people achieving a more perfect union and all the rest. 

The United States, for me, was founded on an idea of civil religion.  It is the most successful civil religion arguably in history.  It’s doing incredibly durable.  What Obama has done is to re-infuse or reinvigorate that civil religion that allows people to believe. And what’s fascinating about that is the way in which that belief will enable people to organize and change their view of things.  I mean, November 4, 5 [2008]; where I live in Brooklyn, was just like a huge party; expansive collective joy.  It was wonderful and I fear the people are going to be disappointed because in a sense the stakes have been cranked up so high, all he can do is fail.  I hope he’d be given time but I’m not sure they will. 

 

Recorded on: Feb 3, 2009.

Philosopher Simon Critchley discusses the new Enlightenment.

Live today! | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How often do vaccine trials hit paydirt?

Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.

Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.

Keep reading Show less

Consumer advocacy groups are mostly funded by Big Pharma, according to new research

An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.

Image by Jukka Niittymaa / Pixabay
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
  • The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
  • Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.

Keep reading Show less

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
Coronavirus
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

Women who go to church have more kids—and more help

Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.

Pixabay
Culture & Religion
  • Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
  • A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
  • Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast