31 July 2009

Does God exist?

I don't like translating my own writings, so I won't subject you to a translation of my review of ¿Dios existe?, whose core is a public debate between then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the atheist Italian philosopher Paolo Flores d’Arcais (which, as far as I know, hasn't been published in English). The book in fact doesn't deal a lot with that ancient, ever-present topic, but has more to do with the mode of the affirmation of God by the believers and how it relates to the grounding of moral principles and the law.

Deep stuff, especially for one (like me) who has never studied philosophy. I'm missing most of the references that the author takes for granted... But I think I'm getting it, mostly. This guy Flores d’Arcais has some very clear ideas and he knows how to convey them. This unlike Michel Onfray, who's fascinating but excessively florid and elliptical (I just finished a book by him about the Cynics, by the way), and very, very unlike the one contemporary atheist philosopher I've read within the Anglo-Saxon materialist tradition, Daniel Dennett. Popular English-language atheistic thought is, understandably, almost completely devoted to refuting Protestant fundamentalism and creationism, on one hand, and denouncing the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism on the other — and it all seems a bit shallow and pointless after a while. I've been overexposed to that lately (I'm still trying to finish Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea, which has very engaging ideas on the origin of design). So for me Onfray and Flores d’Arcais are a door into a different world of thought.

I'll leave you with something to get an idea of what Flores d’Arcais thinks about religion in the public sphere, his Eleven Theses Against Habermas. The condition he sets for a pluralistic democracy are echoed in the arguments he presents in the book — namely, that all of us, believers of all faiths and nonbelievers alike, must renounce to claim that we have reasonable, unassailably objective grounds for our principles, because such a thing does not and cannot exist.

28 July 2009

Amado Boudou

I'm being asked to come back and write something. So instead of apologizing (again) for doing something else instead of writing, I thought I'd share short snippets of my thoughts that might interest my readership. Here comes one: did you know (or notice) that phonetically, the name of our latest Minister of Economy, Amado Boudou, means Beloved Voodoo?

Voodoo seems an appropriate subject to relate to the minister. Our economy, with its ups and downs, is faring surprisingly well given the crisis, but since Néstor Kirchner decided to get rid of Roberto Lavagna, the office of the Minister of Economy is like a periodically revived zombie. When someone alive steps into the post, or she or he's promptly bludgeoned into an undead state by the Kirchners' requirements of absolute loyalty. Felisa Miceli was an undead from the start, as was Miguel Peirano; his successor, Martín Lousteau, like him a promising, independent young minister, made the grave mistake of proposing Resolution 125 and the fatal one of disturbing the government's inflation denialism, and lasted very little after that; Carlos Fernández was barely seen or heard, an undead without even the redeeming features of romanticism or tragedy, and passed without a sigh.

Argentine governments tend to burn economy ministers fairly quickly. Boudou has just started and he's half wasted already, having had several members of his work team vetoed or hand-picked by Néstor Kirchner on the basis of personal loyalty. Want to bet how long he'll last?

02 July 2009

In a pause

I'm having trouble connecting to the internet at home, due to a chronically failing telephone line, so I'm writing from the office and I'll have to keep it short. I'm working at the very place where the statistics of the influenza A epidemic for the south of Santa Fe are reported and analyzed, so you'll understand.

I really have no idea what's going on, except what everybody knows: the schools are closed for July, though other public places are so far deemed OK, and it seems the government might postpone the provincial primary election to be held next Sunday (July 5) for a month. Pregnant women will be given a couple of weeks off (with pay) until the peak of the flu epidemic passes. And there's a lot of paranoia around. It's tiring sometimes.

I haven't even caught a cold this winter (knock on wood), so I'll be back soon, I hope!