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So, No Reset Then?-A Saturday Link

Putin announced the re-opening of an old base in Cuba, where the ...

Two Thursday Links-Michael Totten On Western Sahara & A Possible Kurdistan?

Full piece here. Totten visits Western Sahara, ‘administered’ by Morocco, parts of ...

From Foreign Affairs: ‘Kurds To The Rescue’

Full piece here (published 06/17/14) Not so fast. Why would ISIS fight ...

Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.

Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism

Full post here.

Perhaps Scruton is just being nostalgic for what he describes as the old humanism:

“There is no need for God, they thought, in order to live with a vision of the higher life. All the values that had been appropriated by the Christian churches are available to the humanist too.”

And he laments the new humanism, which lacks the noblility of purpose of the old, and offers nothing positive:

Instead of idealizing man, the new humanism denigrates God and attacks the belief in God as a human weakness”

Scruton suggests Richard Dawkins to be an example of the new humanists.  Also, an interesting quote:

“Having shaken off their shackles and discovered that they have not obtained contentment, human beings have a lamentable tendency to believe that they are victims of some alien force, be it aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, capitalism, the priesthood, or simply the belief in God. And the feeling arises that they need only destroy this alien force, and happiness will be served up on a plate, in a garden of pleasures. That, in my view, is why the Enlightenment, which promised the reign of freedom and justice, issued in an unending series of wars”

The Garden Of Eden? What about the unitarian universalists?

See also on this site:  Similar topics from Britain:    From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Full interview here.

Totten interviews Benjamin Kerstein, who’s written Diary of an Anti-Chomskyite, which is bold in holding Chomsky to account for many of his ideas and public statements regarding his politics:

‘In the case of Chomsky, however, I think we have one of the most egregious cases. He didn’t just support an ideology, he essentially created it, or at least played a major—perhaps the decisive—role in doing so. And there isn’t just one case of lending his skills to justifying horrendous acts of political evil, there are many. And as I noted before, he has never owned up to any of them and as far as I can tell never will.’

It sounds quite incendiary.   Kerstein labels Chomsky a monster for such sins as Cambodia.

There’s also this:

‘Chomsky says at one point that there is a moral and ethical order that is hardwired into human beings. And Foucault basically asks him, why? How do you know this hardwired morality exists? And even if it exists, how can we know that it is, in fact, moral in the first place? We may feel it to be moral, but that doesn’t make it true.’

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More here from the Times Literary Supplement.

Related On This Site:  Perhaps after Kant’s transcendental idealism, Chomsky really does believe that morality, like Chomsky’s innatist theory of language, is universal and furthermore hard-wired into the brain.  This could lead to a political philosophy of either universalism or nihilism, or at least his retreat into anarchism or anarcho-syndicalism away from such idealism.  There’s little to no room for the individual in such a vision.  Perhaps Chomsky has never seen life, liberty and property and the individual except from such a vantage point:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: 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”

A reader points out that I’ve put forth no real arguments…: The Politics Of Noam Chomsky-The Dangers Of Kantian Transcendental Idealism?

Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

Perhaps Chomsky and Strauss both flirted with Zionism, but they were very different thinkers:…From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Four More Months-The White House & The Iranian Regime

Secretary Of State John Kerry has announced a four month extension of the initial preliminary talks with Iran, stretching them until November 24th:

Claudia Rosett is unhappy with language coming from the White House, worried that we’ve already legitimized too much.

It’s tough to see what happens in the next four months that hasn’t happened already:

The phrase is absurd. Iran’s nuclear program is manifestly not about peace. If it were, there would have been no need for Iran’s collaboration with Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan nuclear network, no need for secretly built Iranian enrichment facilities, no need for Iran’s years of maneuvering under sanctions, no need for Iran’s work on long-range missiles to deliver nuclear weapons, no need for the whole vast elaborate web of deceits and dodges and ploys with which Iran has built its nuclear program. There would be no need now for months and months of multi-tiered haggling in Vienna with the U.S., Britain, France and Germany (and, nominally, with China and Russia — which have managed the trick of both supplying materiel to Iran’s nuclear program, and bargaining over the results). There would be no need for secrecy. There would be no need for any more Iranian nuclear program going forward. Iran’s regime could dismantle its entire nuclear kit, and amuse itself with developing the country’s vast wealth of oil and gas.’

Click through for more.

It’s hard to see from here how the divide gets bridged:  An Iran which sees nuclear enrichment and weapons as a right, a big stick, and a matter of national destiny, and a U.S. that sees an Iran with nuclear weapons as fundamentally unacceptable.

In Iran, you’ve got a theocratic, repressive regime which sponsors terrorism far beyond its borders, props up Assad and runs guns to Hamas and various others. This is a deep State largely controlled by an Islamic revolutionary security apparatus which squelches domestic political opposition, spies on its citizens, and has been known to murder and jail dissenters and opponents. There are some democratic elements, journalists, and many business interests in Iranian society, of course, bumping up against the Baseej, the Supreme Leader and the theocracy, but they don’t have too much control over their country.

It was argued that with newly elected Hassan Rouhani as President, this was the best chance for something to happen.

By and large, we’re out on a limb with a crafty, authoritarian regime at the end of the day, generally not to be taken at its word most of the time but which probably acts in what can be recognized as rational ways (aiming for regional domination and nuclear weapons as a matter of national destiny, for starters).

I keep putting this quote up from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

What about an unadventurous foreign policy, but still very risky nonetheless?

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

-Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

-Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-Semitism

Monday Quotation-George Santayana

Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality.”

-George Santayana

A Defense Of Capitalism, Moving Away From Deconstruction & Questioning The Idea Of All That Progress-Some Links

Via Bloggingheads-Will Wilkinson & Jason Brennan Of Georgetown University discuss Brennan’s new book: ‘Why Not Capitalism?’

A radio interview with Brennan here at Libertarianism.org.

Some arguments against idealized and practical socialism.  The kids probably need to hear this kind of thing nowadays.

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Via The American Mind Series at Claremont McKenna College-Heather McDonald, a fellow the Manhattan Institute, discusses her movement away from Deconstruction at Yale, Jacques Derrida, and her time as a clerk for a judge on the 9th Circuit:

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This Jack Balkin paper on Deconstruction is interesting.

See: Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

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Via a reader: Edward Feser’s review of John Gray’s ‘The Silence Of Animals.’  It is rather unfavorable, and for my part, may highlight a divide between the act of writing and reading as a particular use of the creative imagination versus that of the more sustained reasoning required of philosophical debate.

Needless to say, Gray’s rather nihilistic approach casts doubt upon much of the modern project, religious claims to moral authority, the new humanism and many common assumptions of progress and the products of reason as well.

Here he is in his own words:

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Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

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”

See:Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’…John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

A Concrete Wonderland In D.C.

From Buzzfeed:  The 7 Ugliest Government Buildings In Washington D.C. (Via Althouse)

The modern art that’s often been left to roam the lobbies and courtyards of large bureaucracies is often curiously bad, and some is on display at the link.

A reader sends a link to a bad public art blog.

Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of the strangely familiar in a favorite work of art; being moved deeply, comforted, given some pleasure, frightened. Maybe for a moment some deeper truth seemed to reveal itself to you, and you were free to follow it for awhile, wherever it lead, along some thread of intuition.

Now, why would you want to do that in the lobby of the Department Of Housing & Urban Development?

We should be comforted when corporate/bureaucratic art is bland, bad, and uncommunicative.  After all, do you think you’d trust a bank more or less if it had a shocking modern/pop art sculpture in the lobby?

More broadly, sometimes I worry about the attempt to seek collective purpose and postmodern meaning in modern art, music and even cartoons etc. The flirtations with nihilism can encourage more desperate collectivist/ideological impulses to fill the void. The excesses are many.

As for a critique of Albany Plaza, another modernist/bureaucratic concrete wonderland, here’s Robert Hughes:

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Some snippets of previous posts:

James Lileks responds to an Atlantic piece which reflects upon the modernist influence.  From the Atlantic piece.

‘At their best, the Schiffs can be models for renewing the unquenched aspiration of a century ago, to place art and its imaginative demands at the center of an effort to build a more humane future’

Humane.  Human.  Human rights.  Make it new.  Break with the past.  Shape man’s destiny upon new foundations of knowledge, explore new possibilities, and perhaps shape men themselves.

Why, there’s a whole philosophy under there.  Not a religion necessarily, and not always moral claims to knowledge, but a whole framework nonetheless.

Well, some of it, anyways.

A previous head of the Social Security Administration was also a pretty good poet.

See Also On This Site:  Trying to stick something against his poems: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarWednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens, The Snow ManFriday Poem: Wallace Stevens And A Quote By David Hume

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

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”

Robert Frost’s ‘The Oven Bird’

The Oven Bird

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would sing and be as other birds,
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
is what to make of a diminished thing.

-Robert Frost

Labor & Time-Kevin Williamson At The National Review: ‘Planes, Trains & The Internet’

Full piece here

Williamson suggests we should look to Helsinki, Finland, at least when it comes to technology and transportation:

‘Notably, the Helsinki model would end some transportation monopolies (the rail service would no longer have a monopoly on ticket sales, for instance) and would rely on competition among private providers to match resources with consumer demand.’

The larger principle he uses to get there:

‘American progressives love railroads and hate cars, and that is not without a political dimension: Railroads tell you where to go, which is very appealing if you see society as one big factory to be subjected to (your) expert management. And that’s really the basic question of liberalism in the better, classical sense of that word: Is the state here to tell you where to go, or is it here to help you get where you are going? And how to get there?

If you believe that you have a right to your own labor, and that your time is your labor, then why would you need a large, unresponsive, oft politicized monopoly deciding how much time you spend in transit now that technology is making other options available?

One appeal of the libertarian argument is simple: Don’t you want to pay less for a ride when you can?

Another appeal is also pretty simple if you believe in the above: Free citizens need to put the moral justification back onto the current laws, political players, and monopolies from time to time, forcing them to justify their involvement in our lives and in the markets. After all, beneath lofty ideals gather real interests seeking to bend the laws towards their own ends, and with a lot of self-interest besides.

Incentives matter, and while I’m guessing safety and public safety guide a lot of moral justification by local governments, and which a lot of citizens generally support, it’s necessary to do some house-cleaning now and again.

Airlines are partially de-regulated as Williamson points out (more responsive to consumer demand these days, so flying is much cheaper and more accessible and thus probably more like taking a Greyhound), but not all the way de-regulated.  Yet, where is the money going again exactly?  Who’s doing what and how much are they getting paid? Aren’t these regulations creating dead zones where technological innovation lags?

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On that note, one of the main arguments behind the push to pass Obamacare was the idea that you don’t own a right to your own labor nor time enough to prevent the socialization of that labor when it comes to health-care:  It’s no mere commodity nor economic exchange. You will have a tax/penalty levied and part of your tax dollars will now go to a centralized, redistributionist, oft politicized set of experts and enforcers promising to make sure everyone gets health-care on some level (ignoring many of the structural problems at the VA and various other incentives that prevent responsiveness at other bureaucracies).

Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t exactly worked as advertised so far, with a lot more bumpy road likely to come.

The Scandinavian welfare-state was held-up as a model by many progressives for Obamacare, so Williamson does try and justify his use of Helsinki as a model for deregulation here in the U.S.:

‘Imagine trying to implement such a thing in New York City or California — imagine the union friction alone — and you’ll have a pretty good indicator of why European-style policies are unlikely to produce European-style results in the United States. It is not as though Helsinki is a free-market, limited-government utopia — far from it. But on the liberty–statism spectrum, it matters not only where you are but in which direction you are moving — and why.’

Intentions matter as much as actions?

On the statism/liberty axis, I’m guessing many progressives believe that we need more Statism in order to secure more liberty, but from the libertarian perspective, such a definition of liberty is so utopian and idealistic/ideological that it can never be reached, only promised and over-promised. Many progressives also likely believe their intentions are pure enough for government work and during the last two Presidential elections, it seems a fair number of Americans agreed with them for a time.

John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

Review here of a new book by author Luke O’Sullivan on 20th century British conservative and thinker Michael Oakeshott. Other books by O’Sullivan on Oakeshott can be found here.

If you’re interested in critiques on the effects of rationalism and utopianism in politics and political theory, and a defense of the familiar and the traditional in the face of Socialist, Marxist, and other ideologies, it’s probably worth looking into.

Drop a line if this is your area.

Gray:

‘That Oakeshott’s thought does not in the end hang together may not be very important. What system of philosophy does? But the fact is ironic given his intellectual antecedents. He was one of the last of the British Idealists, who, as opponents of empiricism, understood truth not as meaning correspondence with any kind of external reality but as a form of internal coherence in our thinking.’

and:

‘He wrote for himself and anyone else who might be interested; it is unlikely that anyone working in a university today could find the freedom or leisure that are needed to produce a volume such as this. Writing in 1967, Oakeshott laments, ‘I have wasted a lot of time living.’ Perhaps so, but as this absorbing selection demonstrates, he still managed to fit in a great deal of thinking’

A nihilist of sorts?

Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

Catholics, Punditry, Progressives & Rubes-Ross Douthat At The NY Times

Full piece here.

Douthat responds to E.J. Dionne’s ‘The Reformicons‘ and Andrew Sullivan’s ‘Reform Conservatism.’ It’s interesting to note that Dionne is a liberal Catholic progressive Democrat (concern-trolling at its finest), and Sullivan a gay, Catholic British emigre, aligning with progressives on many social and political issues (Obama is the ‘true conservative‘), and Douthat a more conservative Catholic columnist for the NY Times, who’s written a book on the subject ‘Grand New Party.’

This seems a pretty BosWash and Catholic affair.

Perhaps Dionne and Sullivan are gazing with warier eyes upon religious and social conservatives now that the progressive coalition in power may be running out of steam, and Obama’s approval numbers are running lower lately.

Douthat:

‘The reality is that, except in truly exceptional cases, our politics is better off in the long run when views held by large proportions of the public are represented in some form by one of our two parties. Right now (to run down a partial list of divisive cultural issues), a plurality of Americans want the immigration rate decreased; about half the country opposes affirmative action; more than half supports the death penalty; about half of Americans call themselves pro-life. Support for gay marriage and marijuana legalization has skyrocketed, but in both cases about 40 percent of the country is still opposed. Even independent of my own (yes, populist and socially conservative) views, I think these people, these opinions, deserve democratic representation: Representation that leads and channels and restrains, representation that recognizes trends and trajectories and political realities, but also representation that makes them feel well-served, spoken for, and (in the case of issues where they’re probably on the losing side) respected even in defeat’

The wheels are turning, and like politicians, many a pundit’s limp body has been pulled from the gears of electoral politics and predictions about the future.

Predictions are hard, especially about the future.

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