Mark C. Taylor of Williams College is among the most nimble of nimble minds perched on the cutting edge of whatever, just possibly, might be the next big thing. His many books over the years on religion, philosophy, economics, architecture, and whatever have in common a neophiliac’s conventional delight in debunking what he takes to be conventional wisdoms. He was a friend of the late Jacques Derrida. (Earlier this year, The Onion ran the headline “Jacques Derrida ‘Dies.’ ”) Taylor is most noted for his conjoining of postmodernist a-theology with the “death of God” and a deconstructionist employment of the hermeneutics of suspicion. Older readers will no doubt remember the death of God. Taylor’s newest book is "After God."
In any event, Mr. Taylor’s op-ed (requires subscription) in the New York Times raises the alarm about the growing number of college students who “seem to be practicing traditional forms of religion.” These “fundamentalist” and “chauvinistic” students, we are told, do not take kindly to having their faith criticized. Even “distinguished scholars” are burdened by a new regime of “religious correctness” and some are “even subjected to death threats.” Mr. Taylor does not say whether he personally has been treated to the frisson of a death threat, but an administrator did once ask him to apologize to a student who complained that Taylor had offensively attacked his religion in class. Mr. Taylor writes, “I refused.” There are no doubt those who will admire his courage in the defense of professorial bad manners.
Of course, he does not see it that way. Mr. Taylor writes, “For years, I have begun my classes by telling students that if they are not more confused and uncertain at the end of the course than they were at the beginning, I will have failed.” Imagine that. A man who embraces as his life’s work instilling confusion and uncertainty in undergraduates. Challenging work, that.
Then he let the Alpine play.