January 23, 2010

36 Arguments for the Existence of God

Philosophy professor Rebecca Goldstein -- a 1996 winner of the MacArthur Award (also known as the "genius" award) who earned her Ph.D. at Princeton-- has written a new novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God -- A Work of Fiction.

From the Publishers Weekly editorial review:
Cass Seltzer, a university professor specializing in the psychology of religion, hits the big time with a bestselling book and an offer to teach at Harvard—quite a step up from his current position at Frankfurter University. While waiting for his girlfriend to return from a conference, Cass receives an unexpected visit from Roz Margolis, whom he dated 20 years earlier and who looks as good now as she ever did. Her secret: dedicating her substantial smarts to unlocking the secrets of immortality. Cass's recent success and Roz's sudden appearance send him into contemplation of the tumultuous events of his past, involving his former mentor, his failed first marriage and a young mathematical prodigy whose talent may go unrealized, culminating in a standing-room-only debate with a formidable opponent where Cass must reconcile his new, unfamiliar life with his experience of himself. Irreverent and witty, Goldstein seamlessly weaves philosophy into this lively and colorful chronicle of intellectual and emotional struggles.
Oh, by the way, she's also married to Harvard and MIT cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker.

In case you haven't had a chance to read her new novel, here's a video of Pinker interviewing Goldstein:



I like Rebecca Goldstein. She told Christopher Lydon, host of Open Source from Brown University, that she's
"not very uncomfortable with some of the belittling descriptions of religious people ...
Religion and religious emotion are so much more complicated than that. One of the things that Spinoza taught us, and it's being validated finally in neuroscientific labs, is that emotions and intellect, cognitions and passion, are inextricably bound up with one another. Cognitive states are also emotional states, and emotional states make cognitive claims.."
I know intelligent people, as well as stupid people, who are religious. Goldstein quotes John Locke to Lydon on religious enthusiasm, saying: look, it's not a source of truth. It is powerful and it is ecstatic." I happen to think that most religious apologists' arguments are hogwash, but we can disagree with each other without being disagreeable. I think that if anyone can pull off a book about disagreement that does not preclude reconciliation, Goldstein can.


1 comment:

petrenkov said...

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Sincerely yours
Alice Tudes