Barbara Herman responds to
Will PBS Become the Protestant Broadcasting System?
In defense of René Descartes.  His argument implies that he was essentially neither old nor young, essentially neither rich nor poor, not male or female... but he was essentially thinking, whatever he thought he was. The audacity has to impress. Few post-moderns could offer such transgressive possibilities. Though the mind/body split has a very nasty legacy—but if you had to pick, is it clear that mind over body is worse than body over mind?—Descartes ought to be honored (and chided) for insisting on virtually unmeetable standards of rigor for thought. No Cartesian, and few Frenchmen, will worry about stem cells, or gay marriage, or the Rapture. When we are trying to know and understand, the ideas we aspire to should be able to withstand the austere discipline of skeptical doubt. Intelligent Design is just another good idea? Not a chance. So while, alas, on the crackpot scale, the theory that the guys in Washington aim to replace science with faith gets a "1", on this issue, at least, Descartes is on our side.

Barbara Herman is a professional friend of the mind and Professor of Philosophy at UCLA

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