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April 10, 2006

The Mahdi on The Enlightenment

The Mahdi Bunting on her blogging about The Enlightenment:

So with a naive faith in the power of blogging I launched my ponderings on the Guardian's Comment is Free site. I also added in the idea I had just heard from philosopher Jonathan Rée that the Enlightenment - as we understand it - was a 19th-century retrospective invention. I thought that might stir up one or two responses but didn't have a clue that it would prompt outrage for the ultimate of heresies.

My idea was that blogging could be like an intellectual form of Linux, the open-source software based on collaboration among volunteers. Everyone chips in with their own expertise and a global conversation evolves in which everyone benefits.

I wonder what happened?

After more than 300 posts I've learned a lot, but I've also attracted more contempt than in my whole career as a journalist.

Trawling through the posts, there are several parallel conversations. The first is that there's nothing to discuss, Enlightenment values are obvious. The only question is how to defend them against a bunch of lily-livered relativists, notorious Islamist sympathisers and multiculturalists who hang out in unredeemed places like the Guardian.

The second debate is equally lurid and driven by Americans. It warns of the doom-laden scenario of an Islamised Europe by 2060 (there was some dispute about the exact date, demographics etc) in which our granddaughters will be forced to wear the veil and will quiver with fear under sharia. The argument here is that "western Enlightenment values" are at risk of going down the pan as America is swamped by Hispanics and Europe is annexed by the Muslim world.

The third debate was by far the most interesting and complex, and explored which aspects of the Enlightenment and its legacy were unique to Europe and whether they could be developed in Muslim countries.

My God! It actually works! Sure, there’s a lot of crap out there but throwing the debate open to the hoi polloi does in fact lead to some interesting things being said. The original writer even learns things. An intellectual form of Linux? Why not? A pretty good description of the process actually.

April 10, 2006 in Weblogs | Permalink


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