Reply by Dennett to D'Souza Wall Street Journal Essay

(On October 6, Dinesh D'Souza published "Not so Bright" in the Wall Street Journal. This reply was sent to the Wall Street Journal op/ed page on October 7, but they have refused to print it.)

If Dinesh D'Souza knew just a little bit more philosophy, he would realize how silly he appears when he accuses me of committing what he calls "the Fallacy of the Enlightenment." and challenges me to refute Kant's doctrine of the thing-in-itself. I don't need to refute this; it has been lambasted so often and so well by other philosophers that even self-styled Kantians typically find one way or another of excusing themselves from defending it. And speaking of fallacies, D'Souza contradicts himself within the space of a few paragraphs. If, as he says, Kant showed that we humans "will never know" the universe in itself, then theists couldn't "know that there is a reality greater than, and beyond, that which our senses and our minds can ever comprehend." They may take this on faith, if they wish, but they mustn't claim to know it, on pain of contradiction. We brights see no good reason to join them in their conviction, and they must admit that they see no good reason either. If they did, it wouldn't be purely a matter of faith.

Those who are not gays are not necessarily glum; they're straight. Those who are not brights are not necessarily dim. They might like to choose a name for themselves. Since, unlike us brights, they believe in the supernatural, perhaps they would like to call themselves supers. It's a nice word with positive connotations, like gay and bright and straight. And we brights don't, as a rule, boast that we "operate on a higher intellectual plane than theists," though if I had to judge based on D'Souza's muddled attack on us, I would say this might well be true. But I daresay that theism has more impressive spokespeople so I will remain agnostic on that score.

Daniel Dennett