A timely exploration of intellectual dogmatism in politics, economics, religion, and literature-and what can be done to fight it
Polarization may be pushing democracy to the breaking point. But few have explored the larger, interconnected forces that have set the stage for this crisis: namely, a rise in styles of thought, across a range of fields, that literary scholar Gary Saul Morson and economist Morton Schapiro call "fundamentalist." In Minds Wide Shut, Morson and Schapiro examine how rigid adherence to ideological thinking has altered politics, economics, religion, and literature in ways that are mutually reinforcing and antithetical to the open-mindedness and readiness to compromise that animate democracy. In response, they propose alternatives that would again make serious dialogue possible.
Fundamentalist thinking, Morson and Schapiro argue, is not limited to any one camp. It flourishes across the political spectrum, giving rise to dueling monologues of shouting and abuse between those who are certain that they can't be wrong, that truth and justice are all on their side, and that there is nothing to learn from their opponents, who must be evil or deluded. But things don't have to be this way. Drawing on a wide range of thinkers and writers from across the humanities and social sciences, Morson and Schapiro show how we might begin to return to meaningful dialogue through case-based reasoning, objective analyses, lessons drawn from literature, and more.
The result is a powerful invitation to leave behind simplification, rigidity, and extremism-and to move toward a future of greater open-mindedness, moderation, and, perhaps, even wisdom.
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Gary Saul Morson is the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities and professor of Slavic languages and literatures at Northwestern University. Morton Schapiro is the president of Northwestern University and a professor of economics. The authors of many books, Morson and Schapiro are also the coauthors of Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities (Princeton).
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