Monday, April 18, 2011


[UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens is quite good on Larkin in The Atlantic here.]

Jon Cogburn calls Philip Larkin "non-spiritual yet religious" in this post. He refers also to the idea that many people in the U.S. "brag" about being spiritual but not religious. I imagine that he means Larkin is what I would call spiritual without this involving any kind of metaphysics (or what I would call metaphysics, i.e. supernaturalism, although what even that means is not exactly clear or easy to say). But I don't know. And this makes it hard to know what people mean when they say they are spiritual but not religious. I would guess they mean they are somewhat like Larkin or Coetzee or Wittgenstein (people who are hard to label), and not like Sarah Palin or the Pope or Osama bin Laden (people I associate, perhaps unfairly, with passing judgments and lacking much doubt). But they might mean that they prefer their own cooky metaphysics to the more carefully worked out theories of people like the Pope. And that is much less good, in my book.

I don't agree with all of it (or perhaps it's just certain stylistic features designed to broaden its appeal that I don't like), but Fareed Zakaria gets a lot right in this Time article, it seems to me.

On the other hand, I disagree with most of this, unlike, apparently, Brian Leiter and Jean Kazez. I like to think this shows how close to being a normal person I am, but it probably just proves that I'm not properly broken in as a philosopher.

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