In Praise of Doubt: How to Have Convictions Without Becoming a Fanatic

Peter L. Berger, Author, Anton C. Zijderveld, Author . HarperOne $23.99 (179p) ISBN 978-0-06-177816-2

Sociologists Berger (The Social Construction of Reality ) and Zijderveld (The Abstract Society ) inveigh against the dogma of “isms” that replace humor with certainty and thoughtfulness with blind action. Between the extremes of fundamentalism and moral relativism sits the doubter, perched on liberal democracy, which the authors describe as a three-legged stool, balanced on the state, civil society and the market economy to promote debate and dissent. Berger and Zijderveld illustrate the obvious perils of extremism, but are less adept at navigating moderation. They apply their “doubt” premise to abortion, capital punishment and immigration policy, and come to inoffensively moderate political positions, but their tepid recommendations lack appeal; as the authors admit, “The agnostic position is by definition a weak one.” What recommends doubt as a concept is that it defies stringent characterization. Yet in both style and approach, the authors belie the vigorousness of their position—and an important position it is. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/11/2009
Release date: 08/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 189 pages - 978-0-06-177817-9
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