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.)
“We need more books like this: books that advance an argument, and do so concisely, wittily, with great learning lightly worn.” John Wilson, editor, Books & Culture
“IN PRAISE OF DOUBT is a book of great practical wisdom by authors who have profound insight into the intellectual dynamics governing contemporary life..” Dallas Willard, author of Knowing Christ Today
“The best parts of In Praise of Doubt explore the cultural battlegrounds where a consensus has broken down or not yet coalesced . . . Messrs. Berger and Zijderveld are optimistic: They believe that moral progress is on the march and that moderation is a virtue everyone can agree on.” Wall Street Journal
“Brilliant yet clear, highly illuminating and often humorous, this is vintage Berger spiced with Zijdervelds philosophical perspectives. In Praise of Doubt is essential reading for people of all faiths - and not least secularists.” Os Guinness, author of The Case for Civility
“This book addresses, both broadly and individually, how to balance dedication to strong religious and moral beliefs, while simultaneously being objective and discerning. This book grapples, in a thoughtful, entertaining way with these and other meaty philosophical questions.” Reference & Research Book News
“In his new book In Praise of Doubt, sociologist Peter Berger discusses the dangers of absolute certainty and [quotes] Oliver Cromwell: ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. That seems an appropriate caveat in the matter of the sanctuary as well.” Trenton NJ Times
“This is . . . a serious attempt to explain how to find middle ground between conviction - religious and otherwise - and doubt. . . . In fact, Berger and Zijderveld argue that doubt -- especially as expressed in the idea of a loyal opposition -- is at the heart of a democratic system.” Los Angeles Times
“Peter Berger along with co-author Anton Zijderveld has written… the kind of book that, well, just from the cover I would have to buy it and read it. And then to see Peter Bergers name on it, that just clinches the deal…. he is literally without peer.” Albert Mohler, AlbertMohler.com
“A book of great practical wisdom by authors who have profound insight into the intellectual dynamics governing contemporary life.”
—Dallas Willard, author of Knowing Christ Today
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.