Tag Archives: Conservatism

Update & Repost-Kenneth Minogue At The New Criterion: ‘The Self-Interested Society’

Full essay here.

Thanks to a reader for the link. Deep but very readable. How universal is the desire for individual freedom?:

‘Some people take the view that we in the West are fortunate to enjoy freedom, because it is a universal human aspiration that has been commonly frustrated in most societies. This is one of the more pernicious illusions we entertain about human kind. Most people have never lived in free societies, nor exhibited any desire or capacity for freedom’

and:

‘What most people seem to want, however, is to know exactly where they stand and to be secure in their understanding of their situation.’

Isn’t that last part a universal claim upon human nature? If so, Minogue generally resisted the idea that evolutionary theories could be transferred successfully to Statecraft.

He is arguing that it’s easy to mistake your experiences and ideas within our Western tradition for that of peoples everywhere.

Maybe you’ve traveled and experienced the tribal taboos and family/kin loyalties of smaller bands and ethnic groups. Maybe you’ve been up close to the transcendental submission of will in faith in Islam, uniting a patchwork of tribes and peoples under its claims with high honor ethic and a strong warrior tradition (the individual doesn’t choose whether to drink or have women work outside of the home).   Maybe you’ve seen the caste system in India, or the authoritarian feudal landownership structure in Pakistan, or the ancient, imperial Chinese structure with a Han core, now still a strong State structure charting some kind of course out of Communism.

What is unique about our traditions?

Towards the end of the essay:

‘The balance in our tradition between the rules we must respect because they are backed by the authority of law, and the free choice in the other elements of our life is one that free agents rightly will not wish to see disturbed.’

Food for thought.

Roger Kimball quoting Minogue:

The evident problem with democracy today is that the state is pre-empting—or “crowding out,” as the economists say—our moral judgments. Rulers are adding moral judgments to the expanding schedule of powers they exercise. Nor does the state deal merely with principles. It is actually telling its subjects to do very specific things. Yet decisions about how we live are what we mean by “freedom,” and freedom is incompatible with a moralizing state. That is why I am provoked to ask the question: can the moral life survive democracy?’

One ought to think twice about offloading his/her moral reasoning and capacity for judgment over to others, mindlessly, of course, but in many cases even with family as one gets older, authority figures, tradition for the sake of tradition etc.  One should always stay aware and think for one’s self.

Yet, is any man an island? Does any one of us have knowledge enough to make important decisions for everyone else? Isn’t some degree of authority and hierarchy necessary given human nature, and the functioning of civil society in a nation of laws?

For example, don’t we all have some respect for military honor and duty, even if the military is run by flawed human beings, overseen by rotating groups of politicians with their own aims and incentives?

This is often where many libertarians and conservatives split.

Rand Paul is an anti-war libertarian, and pretty isolationist, for example. Many conservatives, neo-conservatives, traditionalists and members of the military see the necessity of limited conflict, strategy and maintenance of the peace as necessary to secure our interests. The world is a dangerous place. Of the two camps, I generally fall into the latter, trying never to make any support mindless.

Where libertarians and conservatives can agree most of the time, however, is that the products of reason being the basis for the moral authority of the State generally leads to an ever-expanding State. Where are the limiting principles? How much liberal freedom is enough, before it’s time for another crusade?

One of the great dangers, as we’ve seen, is a regime, or group of people in charge who are in possession of their own ends, or the ‘right’ ideas, and who already ‘know’ what’s best for individuals.

That never ends well.

Ken Minogue. R.I.P.

Unpopular as it is to point out: Whatever your thoughts on feminism, it’s important to recognize that at its ideological and radical core are many culturally Marxist elements (the constant search for a ‘sisterhood’…operating as a ‘class’ of oppressed victims…attached to a theory of history which has them coming out victorious against real and imagined enemies during their Manichean struggle).

In other words, you probably don’t want people like that near positions of power.

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Related On This Site:  Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

..Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New HumanismEd West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’

Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?: From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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

Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

Repost-Politics Here, Politics There, Politics Everywhere?-From The Hoover Institution: ‘David Mamet On Conservatism’

Video included at the link.

Celebrated American playwright David Mamet underwent a conversion to conservatism in rather dramatic and public fashion a few years ago.  In leaving his liberal views behind, he’s no doubt become a heretic to some.  At the link, he hosts an interview at Il Forno in Santa Monica with Uncommon Knowledge’s Peter Robinson.

Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

-Born and raised in Chicago, Mamet seems pretty old-school and pretty tough.  He reminds me a bit of Norman Mailer, verbally pugilistic and combative, though unlike Mailer he’s taken a different turn into ju-jitsu, instead of boxing, as well as into a different set of motivating principles.  Alec Baldwin’s Death-Of-A-Salesman-on-steroids speech from Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-known example of Mamet’s work (demonstrating the kind of balls-out truth-telling dialogue from which Baldwin has possibly not recovered).  I’m guessing Mamet grew-up back before anti-bullying campaigns and excessive political correctness became the norm.

Mamet also cites Chicago School Of Economics neoclassical thinkers’ Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Austrian economist/political philosopher Friedrich Hayek as central to his conversion.  Hayek’s rather tragic view of limited resources and opportunity costs being the natural state of affairs for mankind is clearly an influence. This would generally lead one to eschew the Statist/rationalist idealism and socialist utopianism typically associated with many Left and liberal Left movements.

***As I understand it, Thomas Sowell, after becoming a young Marxist eventually became a young ex-Marxist, embracing a hard-bitten empiricism regarding outcomes and results, not the intentions, of economic and social policies.  See him discuss his later vision of human nature and political organization in a Conflict Of Visions.

-Mamet cites the Bible, but mainly the Talmud as a source of wisdom and knowledge to draw upon as a guide for flawed human nature. Jewish folks in the U.S. have traditionally formed a reliably liberal/Democratic voting bloc, so unlike many Christian religious conservatives, they aren’t necessarily voting Republican.  There are no doubt many reasons for this, but to be sure, there are also many tales of neoconservatives ‘mugged’ out of the social sciences and policy-making halls of the liberal establishment into doubt and skepticism, some chased away by the New Left.  There is also a conservative Christian/Jewish pro-Israel alliance which has traditionally been strong on national defense (some fundamentals of that American/Israeli relationship may be changing).

Religious belief can ground one in a kind of traditional and tragic view of human nature.  This, say, as opposed to human nature understood as simply a blank slate or existentialist absurdity, or by some political movements as human clay to be molded with the right knowledge and right people in charge of our social institutions (they always seem to nominate themselves).  As Mamet discusses in the video, there are distinctions to be made between Talmudic justice and social justice.

I’m guessing he might agree there are distinctions to be made between abstract equality and equality under the law (the exception of Civil Rights and black folks held under the civil laws is discussed).  I’m also guessing he’d argue there are distinctions to be made between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on one hand, and liberation theology and/or individual freedom granted by a rights-based cohort in charge of government on the other.

-Mamet also touches on the fact that the arts aren’t a political endeavor.  If writing a play is simply a didactic enterprise and/or a vehicle for deploying a political philosophy (Ayn Rand?), then I think the artist has probably failed in some fundamental way to show the audience/reader a unique truth which only that work of art has to show.  Didactic art can come across as clunky at best, pure propaganda at worst.

Personally, I tend to believe that politics, religion, convention and popular thinking all have trouble with the arts.

Anyways, this is just a brief summary.  Any thoughts or comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

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Christopher Hitchens referenced Hayek’s work in reviewing Mamet’s book.  For Hitchens it seems, Mamet was adopting the grim literalism of religious texts without a richness of irony vital to the Western tradition (Hitchens cites Hegel).  He also charges Mamet with taking-up his new political commitments with the zeal and ignorance of the newly converted.

Hitchens:

 ‘I have no difficulty in understanding why it is that former liberals and radicals become exasperated with the pieties of the left. I have taught at Berkeley and the New School, and I know what Mamet is on about when he evokes the dull atmosphere of campus correctness. Once or twice, as when he attacks feminists for their silence on Bill Clinton’s sleazy sex life, or points out how sinister it is that we use the word “czar” as a positive term for a political problem-solver, he is unquestionably right, or at least making a solid case. But then he writes: “The BP gulf oil leak . . . was bad. The leak of thousands of classified military documents by Julian Assange on WikiLeaks was good. Why?” This is merely lame…,’

So, why is Hollywood so reliably liberal on so many issues?:

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Related On This SiteVia Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

Taking religion out of the laws, and replacing it with a Millian/Aristelolian framework?: Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder…From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

People are using art for political, religious, commercial and ideological reasons as always…right or left…believer or non-believer…Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And AestheticsFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit

Trading Robert Moses for Brailia…an authoritarian streak?:  Brasilia: A Planned CityAnd AestheticsRoger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza… A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

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

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?…Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Repost-Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

Quote mentioned by a friend:

“…it is emblematic of liberalism’s intention, articulated in the Progressive era and pursued ever since, to replace constitutional politics with a system of interest group (and racial) competition, of bargaining for government benefits within the administrative or welfare state presided over by activist judges, policy “experts,” and bureaucrats (in collusion with congressional committees).”

-Charles Kesler-Buckley Jr., William F. & Charles R. Kesler.  Keeping The Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought-A Revised Edition of American Conservative Thought in the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Print.

Quite germane, I’d say.

The term ‘activist’ judges has become very loaded these days.  The nomination process has become politicized and nearly toxic, to be sure.

I looked up Kesler’s quote in context and found he defined 3 conservative camps.  Here’s my brief summary, so feel free to add, subtract, or disagree:

1.  Traditionalists–Often coming from literary and historical backgrounds, Kesler’s traditionalist standout is Russell Kirk, and he mentions Robert Nisbet.  Many traditionalists are more likely to be religious, and find greater wisdom in religious doctrine and teaching about how to live and what to do than most anything else.  Some can see an unbroken line back to Aquinas, and they tend to view Enlightenment rationalism with great suspicion.  Kirk and Nisbet adopted Edmund Burke’s defense of the British Constitution against what they saw as the ahistorical universalism of the French Revolution.

Many look around and see cultural decay, decline, and often times a moral corruption in society.

I’d say Ross Douthat, currently at the NY Times, is an example of a practicing Catholic and conservative.  He’s written a book about the decline of institutionalized religion in the public square and the rise of new-age, mega-churches, self-help and “spirituality.”  Robert Bork, despite his faults, was railroaded as an ‘activist’ judge and could be defined as a traditionalist.

On this site, see:  The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?  Yes, Edmund Burke opposed the French revolution Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

2.  Libertarians–On Kesler’s view, libertarians are more comfortable with Enlightenment rationalism than the traditionalists are, but the original sin for libertarians is collectivism.  This collectivism arises from basing the Enlightenment rationalist foundation in virtue.  Marxist, Socialist, and Communist leaders advocated and sometimes succeeded in bloody revolution, and many genuinely believed they were leading humanity to some dialectically “progressive” point in the future, seeing materialist reality for what it was, and acting for the good of all.  They were ‘virtuous’.  Many in these systems believed they knew better than individuals what was best for them, deciding how they should live, and what they should do.  As is common knowledge, this had disastrous results, including food shortages, external aggression, mass murder, forced labor camps, and the systems eventually rotting from the inside out.

For Kesler, libertarians often come from economic and philosophical backgrounds, and he breaks them into two groups.   The first group consists of Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, and Friedrich Hayek.  For them, freedom simply works, scarcity is all around, and you don’t need to deduce your way back to an underlying rights-based moral theory to justify your defense of individual freedom.  Adam Smith’s invisible hand might be a good example.

Kesler’s other group are those who need to deduce the morality of the market from the rights of man.  If the rights of man don’t come from God, is there some sufficiently transcendent source for our knowledge and thus our moral thinking?  Is there a source that would justify giving some people moral legitimacy to rule over others?  Where do man’s rights come from? J.S. Mill’s utilitarianism may not be enough, so, the search continues.  Kesler offers Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, and Richard Epstein as examples.

In my experience, personal liberty is primary to libertarians.  Libertarians often draw a ring around the individual, and proceed from there.  How one draws that ring is of some importance.

On this site, see: Repost-’Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’..From Fora Via YouTube: ‘Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions’

Charles Murray is trying to get virtue back with the social sciences: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

3. Neoconservatives–Often coming from backgrounds of academic social science, chased away from the New Left and ‘mugged by reality’, Kesler’s neoconservatives would include Norman Podhoretz, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and James Q. Wilson.  On Kesler’s view, they come to distrust ideology, rationalist political theory and have been persuaded by the fact/value distinction. Doubts are bred from within the social sciences and political sciences about how one can be sure of what one knows, especially when that knowledge becomes a source for public policy and a way for a few people to run the lives of many others.

From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington….is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill…Francis Fukuyama At The Amer

Remembering The Marathon Bombing-Roger Scruton At Forbes: ‘A Triumph For The Boston Bombers’

Full piece here.

‘Nevertheless, we cannot simply disregard the evidence, that there are Muslims among us who interpret their religion in another way. The liberal mind-set, which blames their crimes on ‘Islamophobia’, as though we, who threatened no one, were to blame for the attacks on us, shows a wilful disregard of the truth, and a crazy inversion of cause and effect. No doubt we should be careful not to be provoked. And the peaceful ceremonies with which the people of Boston have marked the anniversary of the bombings show that they have not been provoked, and that they continue to live in the open and charitable way for which the bombers chose, for reasons of their own, to punish them. But let’s face it, planted in the heart of Islam is the worm of contempt for the infidel, and this worm can lodge in the brains of otherwise reasonable people and gnaw away at their conscience until no conscience remains.’

I’m not sure the elder Tsarnaev brother, Tamerlan, in the months and years leading up to the Marathon Bombing, was always what we’d call ‘reasonable,’ but point taken. A siren song reaches some Muslim men, often younger and trying to forge identities of their own as they drift between civilizations. Charismatic Islamist Imams, often through online channels, urge rediscovery of Islamic roots and joining of the ‘front lines’ of a holy struggle. A few go in for it, sadly, usually over many months time and after a meeting or two, ending-up on a dangerously radical path.

Whatever their thinking, they pretty clearly had a plan:

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Wherever the Tsarnaev clan started out back in Chechnya and Dagestan, and whatever experiences they had as immigrants to America, I think we can safely say they ended-up a disgrace. Through bad decisions, family failures, and what is likely religious ideology, the two sons chose to commit an act of murderous terrorism designed to take as many innocent lives as possible. They wanted to injure what matters most to Americans and then afterwards tried to make a cowardly, murderous escape.  To top that off, Ma Tsarnaev scurried home without so much as an apology, thank-you or goodbye, perhaps either unable or unwilling to process the event and after years of collecting benefits.

Such gratitude.

I don’t begrudge the city of Boston its plain sense and Puritan work ethic, its civilized, educated roots and liberal, crusading bent along with waves of hardscrabble immigrants and many rough edges. Frankly, I don’t necessarily begrudge the secular humanist ideals that likely guide many of the people running institutions in Boston which provided shelter and opportunity to the Tsarnaevs.

But shouldn’t we be establishing and looking at facts in a cold, hard light?

The victims and families deserve that much.

Below, Scruton discusses Islam and the West and his views in general.  He’s a conservative Briton.

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Some of his essays here.

Interesting quote at min 6:35 of video 4/4:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project and impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Related On This SiteA Few More Thoughts On The Marathon Bombing: Free Speech Is Key

Michael Moynihan At Newsweek: ‘http://www.jihad.com’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Lord Haw Haw And Anwar Al-Awlaki’From CSIS: ‘Rick “Ozzie” Nelson and Tom Sanderson on the Future of Al Qaeda’,Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’

The Hitchens factor, and a vigorous defense of free speech: From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’Islamism, Immigration & Multiculturalism-Melanie Phillips Via Youtube

From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…From The Middle East Quarterly Via A & L Daily: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic

Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie

And:  Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

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’

In The Mail-More On The Boston Marathon Bombers: ‘The Fall Of The House Of Tsarnaev’

Pluralism And Majoritarianism And All That-Some Links

Ross Douthat at the NY Times: ‘Why Liberalism Needs Pluralism

Watch those radical roots:

‘…much of progressivism is straightforwardly organized around the idea of the state-as-liberator, and inclined to see “the private life of power” as a greater threat to true liberty than either the tyranny of the majority or the kindly despotism of the administrative state.’

One of this blog’s primary concerns is that modern liberalism, as practiced with its progressive, collectivist and activist roots, has not addressed vital concerns between the individual and the collective, which can soon lead to the ‘tyranny of the majority or the kindly despotism of the administrative state’ as Douthat points out.

It’s not always as grave as that, but current liberal politics, with pressure from below, has been busy dragging 60’s feminist, environmentalist, and Civil Rights activism back into political discourse (to say nothing of New Deal, Big Labor, and other, older entitlement programs).

Perhaps Douthat’s piece also highlights a gap between many libertarians and conservatives that will very tough to bridge: Some libertarian ideas lead to anarchic consequences, and a vigorous libertarian defense of the individual contradicts many social and religious conservative organizing principles as well.

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On that note, if you want to see where labor activism in progressive politics can lead (unions and politicians generally fighting for the cause, their paychecks and their pensions first, the actual concerns of children later), look no further than California:

‘But after those basic protections were enshrined in law decades ago, labor leaders pushed legislators to expand rights and entitlements for public school teachers—at the expense of educating kids. In the last ten years, only 91 teachers out of about 300,000 (.003 percent) who have attained permanence lost their jobs in California. Of those, only 19 (.0007 percent) have been dismissed for poor performance

This is neither economically nor politically sustainable, and places impossible demands upon our institutions. As for the mayor of New York City:

‘The people are to show “the leaders the path.” But, it turns out, there is only one, progressive path, already marked out with thick hedges on each side. All we’ve really got to do is make sure everybody’s in the lane–get’em all signed up. The means has become the end–“universal” enrollment, not universal achievement–and the work of the good neighbor a matter of paperwork, not particular care or love’

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.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

Full piece here (link may not last).

Scruton:

‘It is true that the theory of the meme does not deny the role of culture, nor does it undermine the nineteenth-century view that culture properly understood is as much an activity of the rational mind as is science. But the concept of the meme belongs with other subversive concepts — Marx’s “ideology,” Freud’s unconscious, Foucault’s “discourse” — in being aimed at discrediting common prejudice. It seeks to expose illusions and to explain away our dreams. But the meme is itself a dream, a piece of ideology, accepted not for its truth but for the illusory power that it confers on the one who conjures with it. It has produced some striking arguments, not least those given by Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell, in which he explains away religion as a particularly successful but dangerous meme.’

Those concepts according to Scruton, are not science, but rather scientism.

And he focuses back-in on judgment, or the capacity for judgment attached to ‘I,’ and an ‘I’ which looks towards transcendence:

‘Surely human beings can do better than this — by the pursuit of genuine scientific explanation on the one hand, and by the study of high culture on the other. A culture does not comprise works of art only, nor is it directed solely to aesthetic interests. It is the sphere of intrinsically interesting artifacts, linked by the faculty of judgment to our aspirations and ideals. We appreciate works of art, arguments, works of history and literature, manners, dress, jokes, and forms of behavior. And all these things are shaped through judgment. But what kind of judgment, and to what does that judgment lead?

Interesting quote by Scruton in a debate about Islam, at min 6:35 of video 4/4:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project or impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Worth a read.

-Steven Pinker, Harvard experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist wrote a piece in the New Republic, entitled: ‘Science Is Not Your Enemy

-Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since the 60′s, responded at The New Republic:  ‘No, Science Doesn’t Have All The Answers.

-Ross Douthat, conservative Catholic columnist at the Times jumped in the fray: ‘The Scientism Of Steve Pinker’ 

-Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, responded to Douthat.

-Wieseltier jumped back in with: ‘Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the humanities.  Don’t let it happen.

-Now Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist, one of the New Atheists and Boston-based secularist responds to Wieseltier:

‘Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems—or “problematics” to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.’

So, how do you teach the arts and tilt the culture? Camille Paglia has some ideas, including the idea that George Lucas has taken root in more 20th-century minds than anyone else with his space opera:

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Related On This Site: Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’…From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy: Charles Sanders Peirce

Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism Reviews E.O. Wilson’s ‘The Social Conquest Of Earth’Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

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’

Ross Douthat At The New York Times: ‘Huntington’s Conflicts, Fukuyama’s World’

Full piece here.

‘But at the same time, Huntington’s partial vindication hasn’t actually disproven Fukuyama’s point, because all of these conflicts are still taking place in the shadow of a kind of liberal hegemony, and none them have the kind of global relevance or ideological import that the conflicts of the 19th and 20th century did. Radical Islam is essentially an anti-modern protest, not a real alternative … China’s meritocratic-authoritarian model has a long way to go to prove itself as anything except a repressive Sino-specific kludge … Chavismo and similar experiments struggle to maintain even domestic legitimacy … and what Huntington called the Western model is still the only real aspiring world-civilization, with enemies aplenty, yes, but also influence and admirers in every corner of the globe.’

Related On This Site:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Francis Fukuyama has started a center for Public Administration at Stanford…it’d be interesting to imagine a conversation between Eric Hoffer and Fukuyama: Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest: ‘Mexico And The Drug Wars’…Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin?Update And Repost-Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’

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

The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

A Few Thoughts On Foreign Policy-Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Conservative Principles Of World Order’

George Will Via The Jewish World Review: ‘This Progressive Battle Could Be The Highlight Of 2014

Full piece here.

Will takes a look at the potential fight over New York’s 19th Congressional District:

‘But Gibson thinks “MVB” — he refers to Van Buren as if he were a neighborhood chum — deserves to be a tea party favorite because he was Andrew Jackson’s sidekick in slaying theBank of the United States, which they considered an instrument for people who practiced the vice nowadays called crony capitalism.’

Chris Gibson’s the Republican incumbent, and Sean Eldridge, married to Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook and owner of the New Republic, is the Democratic challenger.

‘But when progressives say there is “too much money in politics,” etc., conservatives should remain relaxed. Everyone, including Eldridge, should have the right to do what he or she wants with his or her money. Besides, Eldridge will use his money to disseminate his political speech, which conservatives should be confident will do Gibson much more good than harm.’

A lot of hot-button issues and trends in our society come to the fore in such a race:  Same-sex marriage, cosmopolitanism, tech money, urban vs. rural, family, ideology, ideas, ‘values’ etc.

Libertarian editor of Reason Matt Welch took a look at the change of ownership at the New Republic under Hughes, and the move further Leftward:

‘The great irony is that The New Republic is repudiating contrarian neoliberalism precisely when we need it most. Obama proposes in his State of the Union address to jack up the minimum wage to $9 an hour, and instead of surveying the vast skeptical academic literature, or asking (pace Charles Peters) whether such liberal gestures are “more about preserving their own gains than about helping those in need,” TNR columnist Timothy Noah declares, “Raise the Minimum Wage! And make it higher than what Obama just proposed.”

Adam Kirsch, Simon Blackburn, Martha Nussbaum, John Gray.  Here are a few links on this site to the New Republic:  Leon Wieseltier At The New Republic: ‘A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher’Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’

Repost-A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

Book here.  Bork died as of December 19th, 2012.

Bork argues that during the 1960’s, likely starting with the SDS, a form of liberalism took shape that promotes radical egalitarianism (social justice, equality of outcomes) and radical individualism (excessive freedom from the moral and legal doctrines which require an individual’s duty and which form the fabric of civil society).  This is the New Left.

Grounded in an utopian vision, fed in part by the affluence of the previous decades and the boredom and yearning of largely well-off youth, the New Left blossomed not merely into the anti-draft Vietnam protests across the nation’s universities, but into a movement that has forever altered American life in mostly negative ways for Bork(see Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times).

Bork is quite explicit about the violence and threats of violence he witnessed, the barbarism on display, and the confused, tense years that unfolded (culminating in the Kent State debacle).  He was one of two conservative law professors at Yale during the late 1960’s and he argues that events have rarely been represented accurately as he saw them.   It is a personal account.

On Bork’s view, the New Left is still quite with us, for the New Left, to some extent, has morphed into the multi-cultural, diversity politicking, equality pursuing liberal left we’ve come to know and love.  How much equality is enough?  There’s never enough.  How free is the individual?  Well, he’s almost, if not totally, free.  But definitely free from “the patriarchy” and all those silly religious myths.  He’s also adrift, mostly engaged in self-gratification and mostly only able to articulate what he’s free from.  Hence, the radicalism of the New Left on Bork’s view.

I think Bork is at his best when he highlights how portions of the radical individualist project continue to seek meaning in life through collectivist political philosophy, politics, political ideology, gender equality, feminism etc (whereas I would think Bork finds this meaning, a deeper, wiser meaning, in Church doctrine, but the Natural Law folks have problems with him).   Bork even concedes that it may be something in the pursuit of liberty itself, as we do have liberty and equality defined in our Constitution, such as they are.   On this view, the seeds of its destruction lie within liberty and our founding documents to some extent.  Perhaps the old, classical liberalism (equality of opportunity, free markets, party of the working man) will eventually go soft and give way to more radical liberty, given due time.  This is what Bork, as a nearly lone conservative amongst older-school liberals, claims happened at Yale in 1967-69.

Bork also puts forth an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.  He makes the case that there are simply a lot of cultural elites legislating from the bench, using the Supreme Court as a means to the end of more diversity and equality-making, and that they’ve wandered far afield from the document itself (some background here, if you have a better link or better understanding, drop a line).  They court an ultimate danger of undermining themselves, cultivating radicalized people and setting themselves up as the only authority capable of interpreting and directing those people:

If the Constitution is law, then presumably its meaning, like that of all other law, is the meaning the lawmakers were understood to have intended.  If the Constitution is law, then presumably, like all other law, the meaning the lawmakers intended is as binding upon judges as it is upon legislatures and executives.  There is no other sense in which the Constitution can be what article VI proclaims it to be: “Law….” This means, of course, that a judge, no matter on what court he sits, may never create new constitutional rights or destroy old ones.  Any time he does so, he violates not only the limits to his own authority but, and for that reason, also violates the rights of the legislature and the people….the philosophy of original understanding is thus a necessary inference from the structure of government apparent on the face of the Constitution.

As to the legal aspects, I do know that Justices Clarence Thomas, William Rehnquist, and Antonin Scalia have been/were influenced by originalism to some extent.  Of course, like Bork, this makes them targets for attack by the opposition:

—————————–

I must say I find Bork refreshing reading when he helps to reveal the authoritarian (nay, totalitarian) impulses of the “personal is political” crowd.  It’s fun to have someone provide context when observing the tolerance crowd keep on doing intolerant things, yet piously and humourlessly demanding tolerance all the same (see what FIRE does in response at college campuses).  Many of these people actually do run our universities.

***As an aside, I think what’s happened at Slate magazine helps advance the theory.  While politically left, I like Slate when it can be a bit edgy, thoughtful, occasionally more of a haven for artists, writers, creative thinkers and iconoclasts (Christopher Hitchens was a good example).  As of this writing, I find a commitment to the shibboleths of the Left is the ruling order of the day (see the NY Times as well):  You have to toe the line with political correctness and gender and racial equality, and all that individual freedom has limits, obviously, and coalesces around regulated markets, trying to control the public square, and other Statist projects.  Such collectivism should make every individual stop and think about how they fit into such a framework.

Why, it’s almost enough to make a man yearn to live back in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

As for art, as T.S. Eliot points out, a first-rate poet can also chart a course back to church doctrine, though this blog believes art is best served when one points out the obvious problems that religion, politics, law, and polite society have with it.  Robert Bork quoting Yeats and Auden is interesting though potentially problematic, but Robert Bork quoting rap lyrics to show cultural decay is a little humourous, and probably just emboldens the opposition.

I think Bork is arguing that unless we stay religious to some extent, and recognize that truth can be revealed to us through the word of God as well as through reason, we will decline (and there are all sorts of declinists out there).

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site:  Charles Murray is trying to get virtue back with the social sciences: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’…Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…

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”

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?

Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

I’m not sure I’ve understand him properly:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘Burke in America’

Full post here.

 ‘But I think the underlying point is sound: You can’t found an American conservatism on Burke alone, for the solid Burkean reason that he wasn’t an American, and thus wasn’t in the business of defending our particular particularities. But Burke read through/alongside Tocqueville is a different matter, and seen in that light I think the father of British conservatism’s place in the intellectual canon of the modern American right is deserved and secure.’

Related On This SiteSome Quotations From Leo Strauss On Edmund Burke In ‘Natural Right And History’ Carl Bogus At The American Conservative: ‘Burke Not Buckley’

From George Will on Stephen Colbert:  “What conservatives say is that we will protect you against idealism.” Originalism vs. The living constitution: George Will Via The Jewish World Review: ‘True Self-Government

Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’… Behavioral economics and libertarian paternalism and below all that some liberal totalitarianism (the personal is political crowd)…Ross Douthat Responds To Paul Krugman At The NY Times: ‘Can We Be Sweden?’

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