Melvyn Bragg?! I liked Melvyn Bragg; I think In Our Time is a great thing and I wish we had anything nearly as good in the US. But this is a nasty, ragey, wrong, silly outburst.
What he says about reason is ridiculous, for a start. He begins with a superfluous and venomous announcement that Hume is a much better philosopher than Dawkins, then goes on to argue from authority that Hume said so ha. He also misunderstands what Hume said (which must have been calculated; he’s bound to know better).
Here’s my transcript of that part:
He uses reason to destroy Christianity, and says that reason says there is no all-good god – that’s fine. Reason says there are no miracles; that’s fine; but one has to challenge his view of reason: David Hume, who is immeasurably a greater philosopher than Richard Dawkins could ever dream of being, put reason second in the scheme of things. We start with emotions, and passions, and feelings, the roots of which we don’t know, and perhaps we’ll never know; after that reason comes in to steer and sort them; it’s not the primary source of knowledge. Things come to us outside reason: intimations of love, surprised by joy, little pulses that we don’t know where they come from…
“In the scheme of things” – what does that mean? “We start with” – start what? “Things come to us” – what things? What kinds of things? What about them?
He’s either bullshitting or totally confused, and since he’s a knowledgeable guy, I’m guessing he’s bullshitting. Yes feelings are important; yes we mostly don’t rely on reason; no it is not therefore the case that emotions and feelings are reliable sources of knowledge. He implies that they are. I call bullshit.
Later he spits out a venomous attack on the claim that the bible is not an anti-slavery pamphlet, and again he just gets things wrong.
I’m a bit shocked. I would have thought Bragg was above this kind of cheap bullying.