Cultural critic Matthew B. Crawford to close Interfaith Lecture Series week

Matthew Crawford

Last fall, Matthew B. Crawford delivered the 2023 First Things Lecture in Washington, D.C., held by the journal of the same name, which publishes on religion and public life in America. The lecture was titled “The Rise of Antihumanism,” and Crawford — author of Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road — opened with an anecdote about self-driving cars.

A Google self-driving car came to an intersection with a four-way stop; it was taught to stop, wait for other cars to do the same, and then drive on.

But that’s not what people do, Crawford pointed out, and the car stayed stopped, blocking the intersection, and needed to be rebooted. A human driver in this case would have had ways to communicate with the other vehicles: waves, eye contact, etc.

“We are endowed with social intelligence, through the exercise of which people work things out among themselves, and usually manage to cooperate well enough,” Crawford said in his lecture. “Tocqueville thought it was in small-bore practical activities demanding improvisation and cooperation that the habits of collective self-­government were formed. And this is significant. There is something that can aptly be called the democratic personality, and it is cultivated not in civics class, but in the granular features of everyday life.”

The push toward driverless cars and similar technology is part of a bigger pattern of antihumanism, Crawford argued, and that pattern threatens the very concept of citizens and self-governance.

Drawing on philosophy, religion, culture, history civics and his wide array of work — from the seminal Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work to his current role as senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture — Crawford will close the Interfaith Lecture Series’ Week Two theme of “Religion’s Intersections: Interdisciplinary Imagination with Science, Technology and AI” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.

“The four antihumanisms, as I see it, are these: Human beings are stupid, we are obsolete, we are fragile, and we are hateful,” he said in 2023. “I submit that these four premises are mutually supporting and that, together, they serve to legitimize, and usher in more fully, the post-political condition. One thing they have in common is that, if taken to heart, they attenuate the citizenly pride that is both cause and effect of self-government.”

Tags : AIartificial intelligenceinterfaith lecture seriesInterfaith Lecture Series PreviewMatthew B. CrawfordreligionShop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of WorkThe Rise of AntihumanismWhy We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road

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