Daily Archives: 2017-12-22 20:54:23 UTC

Is there anything good to be said about Richard Carrier?

What is the probability (think Bayesian if you like) that any scholar, any author, any person, has nothing to say that is worth an honest response or engagement? How likely is it, really, that a person who holds a view that you strongly disagree with is also a person of such a bad character that you can never imagine in them a single redeeming quality?

Can you really know that a person who is arguing something you find detestable is also insincere, a hypocrite, driven by some pernicious secret motivation?

When you see a person you don’t like react or act in an uncivil or unprofessional or even dishonest manner, does it follow that everything that person is on record as doing and writing is also dishonest?

There’s another side to this question, too, of course. Someone once said to me that “mythicists must stick together”. I disagree. We all must be honest with each other and with those who we disagree with or engage with in any way at all.

A little while ago I posted that the debate between Hurtado and Carrier had become unpleasant. The unpleasantness went well beyond Hurtado and Carrier themselves. Several other scholars posted very nasty accusations, outright dirty insults, against both Carrier and anyone who went along with his ideas.

I said there are two sides to this question, but right now the fault is primarily on the side of those opposing Carrier. I find it very difficult to read a critical comment on Carrier’s book that does not at some point declare that they believe Carrier to be a liar or a hypocrite when he says something that might be construed as a positive point in favour of his motivations and interest in the debate. No evidence is required for the motivation imputed except the fact that what he said is not what we believe or want to believe to be true.

If Carrier makes an argument for a point that we believe is going too far or is ill-informed then it seems to give us licence to ignore all the rest of his arguments or to bracket them all as equally fallacious.

No-one has to like Carrier as a person. But I am sure we don’t seriously believe that everyone we dislike is simply bad in all their ways and in every fibre of their being, a total arsehole in every imaginable way and situated beyond the ability of any decent society to accept them. Yet that is the impression that one begins to gain when one reads of criticisms of Carrier’s work. It’s all bad, all of it, nothing good in it at all, every argument is either absurd and/or fundamentally motivated by deception.

I think when we get to that point about anyone’s work we ought to be honest with ourselves and admit we are being unreasonably hostile, unreasonably biased, or simply unfair.