As a follow up to the post below allow me to quote from an interesting book review. In a review of The President of Good and Evil by Peter Singer, Douglas Kern offers some ideas worth pondering.
His introduction mirrors my gut feelings:
I’m closed-minded. I’ve made up my mind on most major issues, and I foresee no likelihood that my most cherished principles and beliefs will ever change. I do not worry that my closed-mindedness presents any handicap to me in the free marketplace of ideas, because my life experience indicates that most genuinely new ideas are stupid. I have little time or mental energy to spend refuting the clever arguments of idiots who contend that black is white, night is day, Communism is misunderstood. As I don’t want to die as big a fool as I am now, I search for truth where it is, not where it is not. So I am closed-minded, and proud.
I am often open to new ideas or new ways of communicating ideas but my foundational beliefs are not often subject to change. Everything is not an open question. Nice to have this perspective made clear up front.
Kern is not impressed with Singer’s book:
Briefly: The President of Good and Evil is tedious, regurgitated left-wing cant. Occasionally it pretends to be a critique of George W. Bush’s ethical philosophy, as expressed in his speeches, his appointments, the magazines he probably reads, the thoughts he may sometimes think, and the fevered whispers of his guru, “Melvin” Olasky (who may be Marvin Olasky, as misidentified by one of Singer’s lazier research interns). It is a higher-I.Q. version of the many dreary left-wing pamphlets now in circulation, with titles like Tell Robert Bork to Eat Hot Death! or Rick Santorum is a Big Smelly Creep and I Hate Him or something equally classy.
Despite this harsh assessment, Kern recognizes the book for what it is and notes that the right is not innocent of this type of polemic:
It’s no different for conservatives. Several recent bestsellers could be fairly described as tedious, regurgitated right-wing cant. And, somewhere in America, a precocious, put-upon tenth-grade conservative is reading those books, and learning. I know. That was me, once.
But despite this Kern concludes with a thought provoking idea:
Forgive a cynic his moment of sentiment, but this closed mind of mine is not closed to truth spoken in love. The books that have changed my mind — yes, there have been a few — were not political, or even ideological. They were prophetic, often in small intimate ways, about small intimate things like human lives. Some authors have the gift of telling stories about characters with such love that we see the world through them with different eyes. In great books we live lives of different faiths, and in the fullness of those lives we can find truth anew. When our hearts are captured by words, our minds follow.
Is this more humanist boilerplate or is this an accurate description of the power of literature and art? I would suggest the latter.
BTW, If you want a different take on Singer’s book see the Complete Review.