I was in Syd this week, caught up with an old friend from school days, she is a singer with Australian Opera company, just landed a lead role in My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle!
Anyway we got to talking about books and it turns out one of her best reads was Affluenza by Hamilton (one of my favorites!), and as I read this weekend in The Australian, he has just released a new book. A topic (secular spirituality) I have read much about from others including Mackay and Tacey, but I thought you might like to read the article.
CLIVE Hamilton has considerable drawing power among the reading public, but will a book about non-religious spirituality based on the premise that we need to be good for goodness’s sake walk off the shelves?
Professor Hamilton took to the airwaves yesterday morning to talk up his latest offering, The Freedom Paradox: Towards a Post-secular Ethics.
He explained to Radio National Breakfast host Fran Kelly that despite a surfeit of material possessions, people were unhappy and there was “a deep anxiety because people do want to know moral rules to live by”.
They needed “inner freedom”, which was “the ability to act on the basis of own considered will”.
His solution was not a return to traditional religious faith, but a new metaphysics. He said people identified fundamentally with other human beings and by articulating and building on that sense of a “moral self”, a new moral certainty could be constructed.
Professor Hamilton founded the Australia Institute think tank, which he left in February after 14years.
Recently appointed the professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, a joint centre of the Australian National University, Charles Sturt University and the University of Melbourne, he is also a prolific writer.
His books include Affluenza, co-written with Richard Denniss, Silencing Dissent (edited with Sarah Maddison) and Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change.
When canvassed, several other public intellectuals were of mixed opinions.
Former NSW premier Bob Carr was supportive of the professor’s take on the meaning of life.
“Good luck to him,” Mr Carr, a fellow environmentalist, said. “Few people who survived Auschwitz continued to believe in the all-powerful all-good heavenly Father or the scriptures.
“Therefore Clive Hamilton seems to pick up this challenge, ignore the illusions of secular prosperity and lead us to something different. Who would not see some value in it?
“I think the environmental urgency he responds to forces us to new thinking about the mysteries of existence.”
But columnist and Sydney Institute executive director Gerard Henderson was scathing.
“What’s next? The meaning of death?” he asked. “It’s not very fashionable to espouse religious views (so) he’s espousing a non-spiritual spirituality, which leaves everyone feeling somewhat confused. He didn’t know the solution, it seems to be to charge up with some communal force but he doesn’t say what it is or what it means.”
University of Western Sydney’s history and politics senior lecturer David Burchell identified a personal transition with Professor Hamilton.
“He’s become a sage,” Dr Burchell said. “It’s the idea of the classic philosopher’s life where you set yourself up as critical of modern life.”
It reminded him of “Western takes on Eastern philosophy”.
But he said Professor Hamilton had picked up on a general feeling among some parts of the community, where the mix of elements including living simply, being anti-materialist and spiritual, and this was exacerbated by extreme anxiety about climate change. “It’s incredibly emotionally persuasive.”
Melbourne Business School’s Paul Kerin was concerned about whose moral standards should apply. “The big issue for me is this is all about morals and has political implications that are not spelled out,” he said.
“I don’t want someone deciding political implications on (the basis of) their own morals, which would impinge on my freedom.”
Prominent Melbourne Anglican Ian Harper said truth was a thing that was being discovered all the time.
“What I would endorse is that Clive Hamilton is resonating with a very ancient religious and philosophical tradition,” Professor Harper said.
The book will be launched on Tuesday in Canberra by High Court judge Michael Kirby.