Robust Struggles

It is perhaps not particularly fair to pull out this fighting-words excerpt from one of Christopher Norris's lectures (the Bucknell Lectures in Literary Theory published under the title Spinoza & the Origins of Modern Critical Theory) — but while you read just keep in mind that the springboard for the remarks is the Rushdie case:

On the one side are those who advocate an allegiance to truths beyond reach of critical assessment or reasoned debate. On the other are those — admittedly in a state of some confusion at present — whose appeal (or whose best possible ground of appeal) is to the interests of open discussion and enquiry into the values that sustain both their own and their opponents' argumentative positions. Any hint of ethnocentric smugness here should be amply dispelled by the occasional reminder — such as Empson provides — of just how long it took for courageous free-thinkers like Erasmus, Montaigne, Spinoza, or Voltaire to knock Christianity into some kind of civilized shape.
I am very taken by the image of being knocked into some kind of civilized shape. Not a parenting style presently favoured. Still, given the context, pretty mild medicine.

And so for day 677