Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.
Do you remember the Sokal hoax?
“…in 1996 the radical “postmodernist” journal Social Text published an article submitted by Alan Sokal, a mathematical physicist at New York University, with the mouthwatering title “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Sokal then revealed the article to be a spoof…”
Sokal has apparently been busy ruminating since that paper, and Blackburn, a Cambridge philosophy professor, reviews his ruminations.
Mentioned In The Review: Kant, Karl Popper, Einstein, postmodernism, a sympathetic account of the academic postmodernist climate, Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, (T)ruth, Richard Rorty…
From The Library Of Economics & Liberty-My SImplistic Theory Of Left And Right
Bryan Caplan chooses to frame the debate thusly:
1. Leftists are anti-market. On an emotional level, they’re critical of market outcomes. No matter how good market outcomes are, they can’t bear to say, “Markets have done a great job, who could ask for more?”
2. Rightists are anti-leftist. On an emotional level, they’re critical of leftists. No matter how much they agree with leftists on an issue, they can’t bear to say, “The left is totally right, it would be churlish to criticize them.”
‘Conservatives use a civilization vs barbarism axis.
Libertarians use a coercion vs freedom axis.
Liberals use an oppression axis to view the world – oppressed vs oppressor.’
Walter Russell Mead’s theory, in part, posits that liberalism 4.0 needs to become 5.0 and start to creatively solve the problems we’re faced with, including globalization and global labor markets and competition, the decline of American of manufacturing and industry, and the rise of technology and automated workplaces. The ‘blue’ model is behind the times, but the same sentiment for equality, fairness, collectivism, unions, labor, anti-capitalism and regulated markets on the way the ‘great society’, are obviously still there, to say nothing of 60’s Civil Rights activism being used as the moral leverage for all sorts of constant change.
Speaking of which, Megan McArdle takes a look at the gig economy, and the comments are well worth a read
‘I think there are real concerns about what has happened to the wages of American workers. But so far, I don’t see much evidence that Uber or Airbnb is the cause. Most of it seems to come from automation of low- to medium-skilled work in the manufacturing and clerical sectors, or the outsourcing of those jobs abroad.’
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.
‘The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.’
‘Coates fails to notice that his blanket exoneration of the perpetrators actually dehumanizes them. On his view, when the young perpetrators pull the trigger or thrust the knife in they are only vectors of forces, not agents with purposes, desires, plans, or motives. Therefore they are not really men at all, so that, ironically enough, they become for him Invisible Man writ large.‘
Many black writers in America should be recognized as having crossed bridges over chasms in communicating their experiences, experiences which have often made even the best radicalize to some degree in the face of such injustice.
Regardless, I’m guessing we’re all best off if the same high standards are universally applied when it comes to quality of prose, depth of thought, scope of imagination and moral courage. Good writing deserves as much: Genuine, even if grudging or even if unfettered, respect.
Works of art are going to do what they’re going to do, polemics what they do, and I tend to believe that respect for the freedom, responsibility, agency and complexity of the individual ought to be central. Realizing the interior lives of others, especially if they’re just characters in a novel, even when they fail miserably and do horrible things, is what I’ve taken to be a core feature of writing which has moved me. This, much more than ideological solidarity and what may be the shared popular sentiment of the moment.
To my mind, there’s something comic about a man (and I can’t be alone) espousing rather radical political views (theories of victimhood, a lack of individual agency and anti-white racism, postmodern ‘body’ talk etc.) while being feted, possibly with the intent of appeasement and assimilation, by mostly less radical (and often very white) audiences.
That’s got to create some tension.
As to politics and social institutions, sent in by a reader, here’s a talk given by John McWhorter about his views in ‘Losing The Race‘, a man who strikes me as politically amorphous, unsatisfyingly moderate for some, and often very sensible. As has been the case for a while, there’s a whole range of views out there:
Related On This Site: What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”…
Timothy Snyder’s new book ‘The Next Genocide.‘
Bruce Everett on the book:
‘It’s de rigueur on college campuses to pledge allegiance to the climate agenda, denouncing Luddites who impede progress on the climate policies that all right-thinking people support. Those of us who work in academia are used to this ritual, but every once in a while an academic decides to distinguish himself by making his denunciation louder and more strident than the rest of the crowd. ‘
Personally, as someone interested in reserving my right to skepticism and following my limited understanding of climate science data (quite possibly happening, not clear how drastic, predictions are hard, especially about the future) climate change activism suspiciously resembles an ideological refugee camp for many followers of failed theories of history.
It really shouldn’t be that difficult a thing to keep a strong interest in the natural world and a desire to understand it quite apart from such true-belief, collectivist virtue-signalling, hyperbole and ideology.
It also seems obvious that some climate radicalism has hardened into an idealism guiding much establishment conventional wisdom, producing an enormous gravy-train of special interests, economy-stifling regulations and questionable incentives. At present, it would seem a vast majority of people busy scribbling for media outlets believe in climate change as much as they believe in anything.
So, what’s the next big thing everyone’s supposed to believe in?
As for Hitler, that reminds me to plug my remaindered pulp title: ‘Hitler’s Hell-Girls And The Venetian Platform Of Doom‘
Back cover blurb: ‘It’s 2076, and the Climate Wars have broken-out. Earth hangs in the balance. Quietly, Hitler’s head has been kept alive on a sub-station orbiting Venus, doing quality research on surface conditions and geology. When the first band of refugees arrives however, old ways return. Soon, Goering’s space-ghost is leading an army of Catholic school girls who’ve traded-in their plaid-skirts for brown-shirts. Can anything stop this nightmare from reaching Earth?’
He’s right…you know zat?
As previously posted: Bathe in the bathos of a warming world:
‘In “Sea Change,” Graham becomes Prospero, casting spells by spelling out her thoughts to merge with ours, and with the voices of the elements. The result is a mingling of perceptions rather than a broadcasting of opinions. Instead of analysis, the poems encourage emotional involvement with the drastic changes overwhelming us, overwhelm- ing the planet.’
‘Strengths and weaknesses, flows and ebbs, yet every poem in “Sea Change” bears memorable lines, with almost haunting (if we truly have but 10 years to “fix” global warming) images of flora and fauna under siege. Jorie Graham has composed a swan song for Earth.’
What are these poems being asked to do?
***Who do you trust for discussions of the arts and culture, and would you just rather publications be up front about their ideological bents and loyalties?
Related On This Site: Snyder is perhaps not a fan of libertarianism Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’
An Irish Airman Forsees His Death
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss;
Nor leave them happier than before.
Nor law; nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
Via The NY Post:
Sometimes, even convicted Soviet spies get their due simply for caring about the ‘community’ a little too much, passing atomic secrets to the Soviets, after having met at the Young Communist League.
‘Three council members joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in issuing two proclamations lauding Rosenberg, a Lower East Side resident, for “demonstrating great bravery” in leading a 1935 strike against the National New York Packing and Supply Co., where she worked as a clerk.’
Wikipedia page here.
On the same day as honoring Ethel Rosenberg, the NYC City Council passed a new ‘greener NYC’ resolution at the ominously named ‘Green City Force,’ which surprise, dear reader, is a city government-funded activist group trying to get young and disadvantaged youth thinking the right thoughts and doing the right things:
“The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is excited to initiate school based environmental learning, through our Living Classroom program, with public schools in the Rockaways. We are certain we can activate our young people to become active stewards of their environment through the support of a Greener NYC,” said John Cruz, Program Director, Rockaway Waterfront Alliance.’
You don’t necessarily need science when you’ve got political power + ideology + money + influence, and a new green package for many of the same dusty thoughts.
And for God’s sake don’t be too up-front about the loose ends and logical inconsistencies of your ideological and moral commitments, especially near that taxpayer money-pot.
Instead, focus on empowering tomorrow through ‘community betterment,’ solving poverty, the latest green-shirt youth programs while throwing in some ‘latest science’ talk.
It’ll all work out in the end.
As posted, from the NY Times on the mayor:
‘Bill de Blasio, then 26, went to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine in the middle of a war between left and right. But he returned with something else entirely: a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.
‘His activism did not stop. In the cramped Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, where he volunteered, Mr. de Blasio learned to cause a stir. He and a ragtag team of peace activists, Democrats, Marxists and anarchists attempted to bring attention to a Central American cause that, after the Sandinistas lost power in a 1990 election, was fading from public view. “The Nicaraguan struggle is our struggle,” said a poster designed by the group’
***Thanks to a friend, I nominate this SNL skit for an appropriate de Blasio nickname.
Here in Seattle, what started out as earth-saving eco-communitarianism is now up to fines, penalties, and eventual control and enforcement of those same idealistic, semi-utopian organizing principles that drew people in:
You must obey!
You don’t have to be a Stalinist revolutionary to appreciate these gleaming metro stations in Pyongyang. Look at those shiny, happy people!:
Related On This Site: What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some Links…Sandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’…Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform
Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’…Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’...The Irish were a mess: William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’
Politicians and politics likely won’t deliver you from human nature, nor fulfill your dreams in the way you want: anarchy probably won’t either: Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’
From Dr. Steven Hicks:
‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.
I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.
So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while’
Related On This Site: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’
Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’…Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism
The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.… Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”
Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”
Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department
The 1st and last paragraphs of Blackburn’s review:
‘When the hoary old question of nature versus nurture comes around, sides form quickly. And as Leavis once remarked, whenever this is so, we can suspect that the differences have little to do with thinking. Still, the question certainly obsesses thinkers, and crops up in various terminologies and under various rubrics: human essence versus historical accident, intrinsic nature versus social construction, nativism versus empiricism. In the ancient world the nativist Plato held that we come into the world equipped with knowledge obtained in a previous life, while the empiricist Aristotle denied it. In our own time Chomsky has revived the nativist doctrine that our capacity for language is innate, and some ultras have even held that our whole conceptual repertoire is innate. We did not ever have to learn anything. We had only to let loose what we already have.
‘Once we get past the demonizing and the rhetoric, take proper notice of the space between overt psychology and evolutionary rationale for it, and lose any phobia of cultural phenomena, what is left? There are plenty of sensible and plausible observations about human beings in Pinker’s book. But it is not clear that any of them are particularly new: Hobbes and Adam Smith give us more than anybody else. And at least their insights have stood the test of time, unlike that of some more recent work. Consider again the example of media violence. Here it seems that psychologists cannot speak with one voice about its effects. But worse than that, much worse, they cannot even speak with one voice about what psychological studies find about its effects. That is, the meta-studies that Pinker cites flatly disagree with the meta-studies that I mentioned earlier. If this is the state of play, we do well to plead the privilege of skepticism. We also do well too not to jettison other cultural resources too quickly. The depressing thing about “The Blank Slate” is that behind the rhetoric and the salesmanship, I suspect that Pinker knows this as well as anyone else.’
Related On This Site: Does evo psy have aspirations in creating a sort of secular morality…or non-religious moral and philosophical structure?: Steven Pinker From The New Republic: The Stupidity Of Dignity…Also, what might the cognitive sciences have against transcedental morality? Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s“Constructive Sentimentalism”
Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’…Repost-Steven Weinberg’s Essay ‘On God’ In The NY Times Review Of Books…Simon Blackburn ReviewsAlan Sokal’s ‘Beyond The Hoax’ In The New Republic…Repost-From Virtual Philosophy: A Brief Interview With Simon Blackburn