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In Praise of Doubt: How to Have Convictions Without Becoming a Fanaticby Peter Berger
Synopses & Reviews
We are stuck. Both as a culture and as individuals‚ we find it much easier to articulate what we are against and find ourselves at a loss for words when we need to articulate what we are for. World−famous sociologists Peter Berger and Anton Zijderveld team up to present a profound treatment of how we can have confidence in our convictions−in such ideals as democracy‚ human rights‚ equality under the law‚ etc.−without succumbing to the radical doubts of relativism and the certainties of fundamentalism. With new lenses for seeing the influence modernism‚ relativism‚ and fundamentalism‚ they explore the roles of humor‚ doubt‚ and social norms that help us have convictions without grasping them so tightly that we become fanatical.
"Sociologists Berger (The Social Construction of Reality) and Zijderveld (The Abstract Society) inveigh against the dogma of 'isms' that replace humor with certainty and thoughtfulness with blind action. Between the extremes of fundamentalism and moral relativism sits the doubter, perched on liberal democracy, which the authors describe as a three-legged stool, balanced on the state, civil society and the market economy to promote debate and dissent. Berger and Zijderveld illustrate the obvious perils of extremism, but are less adept at navigating moderation. They apply their 'doubt' premise to abortion, capital punishment and immigration policy, and come to inoffensively moderate political positions, but their tepid recommendations lack appeal; as the authors admit, 'The agnostic position is by definition a weak one.' What recommends doubt as a concept is that it defies stringent characterization. Yet in both style and approach, the authors belie the vigorousness of their position — and an important position it is." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
This book addresses, both broadly and individually, how to balance dedication to strong religious and moral beliefs, while simultaneously being objective and discerning. Can there be a balance between secular and religious truths, or are they mutually exclusive. Can one logically accept a philosophy that is at odds with their formal, structured beliefs? This book grapples, in a thoughtful, entertaining way with these and other meaty philosophical questions. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
“A book of great practical wisdom by authors who have profound insight into the intellectual dynamics governing contemporary life.”
In In Praise of Doubt, two world-renowned social scientists, Peter L. Berger (The Homeless Mind, Questions of Faith) and Anton C. Zijderveld (The Abstract Society, On Clichés), map out how we can survive the political, moral, and religious challenges raised by the extreme poles of relativism and fundamentalism. A book that asks and answers Big Questions, In Praise of Doubt offers invaluable guidance on how to have convictions without becoming a fanatic.
About the Author
Peter L. Berger is an internationally renowned sociologist and faculty member at Boston University, where in 1985 he founded its Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs. He is the author of The Social Construction of Reality, The Homeless Mind, and Questions of Faith.
Anton C. Zijderveld holds doctorates in both sociology and philosophy. He is on the faculty of Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Among his many books are The Abstract Society, On Clichés, and Reality in a Looking Glass.
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