Vanderbilt professors discuss writings and threats
Jul 11, 2006
Some reading groups choose great fiction or fast-moving mysteries. At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, one group of professors chose the writings and threats of Osama bin Laden as their discussion material.
It’s a cliché to observe that since September 11 we are living in a different world, that everything seems different now. But it is true. I heard Harvard’s Peter Gomes say recently that things sound different now. Phrases read and spoken for thousands of years suddenly sound immediate, as if they were written last week for us.
Nothing is gained and much is lost if we describe the terrorists as evil,” a friend of mine argued recently. I disagree. Our difference can be traced back to a division in moral philosophy. My friend is a moral expressivist. He views moral judgments as expressions of feelings, desires and wants.
When the U.S. declared war on global terrorism after September 11, Osama bin Laden “must have had a sense of relief when America came attacking” in Afghanistan a month later, says the author of a suddenly popular book on the rise of religious violence.