Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Harry Clor, On Moderation

So this semester, we are making a documentary. It is going to be about moderation, extremism, and group polarization--and that's about all we know. This is (hopefully!) going to be an organic process driven by student engagement with stellar readings and the authors that wrote them! While the students will be blogging on various topics throughout the semester, I plan on documenting the actual process of making the documentary--registering our highs and lows.

We began our semester by reading Harry Clor's excellent On Moderation: Defending an Ancient Virtue In a Modern World.

Clor does a good job of trying to define a core for moderation, thus rebutting a common claim that moderation and extremism is "all a matter of perspective." We tried to generate our own list of moderates and extremists--with some surprising crossovers which would seem to frustrate Clor's point!

These are the different sense of moderation that Clor identifies. I have to admit a soft spot for his opposition to moderation as a kind of "bourgeous equanimity." Amen.

So where does Clor end up? One might say that he ends up as a rhetorician, acknowledging that knowledge is contingent and that we can draw on knowledge from experience to guide judgment. These are essentially rhetorical perspectives on knowledge and judgment--issues that we will pick up throughout the course.

1 comment:

  1. How are those "rhetorical" perspectives? That seems to assume a Cartesian definition of knowledge, sure, certain, "clear and distinct." Without that, you've only got "rhetoric," yes? But that assumptions is highly questionable, if only because it ultimately makes the human depend on the subhuman (that which lies there and lets itself be measured), and because it produces the post-modern negation you seem to be stuck with, which dismisses as "rhetoric" the kind of probabilistic semi-knowledge that we actually learn from, if we're willing to pay attention to the phenomena.