Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy

D’Souza is a Christian, and while debating Daniel Dennett at Tufts University, he brings up Nietzsche’s argument that God is dead.   From the depths of Nietzsche’s thinking, D’Souza argues he was able to see the coming crisis in Europe; that Europeans could no longer base their lives upon defunct Christian metaphysics without radically and creatively developing new thinking from the ground up.  Nietzsche also supposed that few if any would heed his call and realize the depth of this crisis, and so would likely lumber into the tremendously violent conflicts of the 20th century.

D’Souza then charges Dennett with a similarly shallow approach; over-simplyfying the metaphysical depths of Christianity from the relatively stable position of present day scientific analysis (which, as D’Souza’s argument suggests, grew out of Christianity itself).

D’Souza is a Christian, as mentioned, and Dennett not.   Nietzsche would probably have not thought much about either a 20th century man still resting upon a belief in God…nor a 20th century man analyzing such a belief from an understanding of science (as a philosopher, Dennett, with a background in science).  Nietzsche, of course, was almost entirely ignorant of science.

You might have to come up with more than that to get to Dennett.

Good debate.  Argument starts at 5:30:

See AlsoA Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom:  The Nietzsche Connection

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

Simultaneity: Depends On How You Think?

In the previous post, the sonic boom video (from sec 00:13 on) mentions that thunder and lightning occur at the same time, however we experience lightning first because the speed of light is so much greater.

This idea assumes a concept of simultaneity, which also has a spatial component (two events occur at the same time in the same place, say, a mile away).  However, one problem you may find is that the more you think about time, the more you realize that it is a deeper phenomenon that such simple explanations support.   

For example, the vector calculus used to determine the electric field lines and voltage of the lightning bolt relies upon a complex and deeper set of ideas about space and time. 

In fact, the video (and it is a simple explanatory video) relies upon the radical re-workings of time and space for its explanations…

Here’s a video illustrating the relativity of simultaneity and time dilation.

Addition:  Here’s the bigview.com on the subject, including Kantian space-time. 

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Robert Downey Jr. Goes Supersonic: Ironman

I saw this trailer for the new movie Ironman, which comes out later this year.  I should probably add that I have nothing to do with the movie.

If you skip to 2:20 (the last 9 seconds), Downey goes supersonic, creating a shock wave which then dissipates as I assume he gains velocity beyond Mach 1.

Wouldn’t a second shock wave, known as a bow wave form at the base of his body?  Would we hear anything after the sonic boom? two booms?

Here’s a well-done page where I found some information. 

Addition:  Photos of an F-22 stealth jet going transonic, clouds forming;  Blue Angel bails out at supersonic speed and tells his story.  Space shuttle breaks sound barrier.   

Video here gives good overview.

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Eric Hobsbawm On Life In The Weimar Republic: 1931-1933

Hobsbawm spent two years as a boy in the short-lived Weimar Republic and watched as the Nazis came to power.  

There’s this:

The fact is that no one, right, left or centre, got the true measure of Hitler’s National Socialism, a movement of a kind that had not been seen before and whose aims were rationally unimaginable.”

and also this:

Even its few years of ‘normality’ rested on the temporary quiescence of a volcano that could have erupted at any time. The great man of the theatre, Max Reinhardt, knew this. ‘What I love,’ he said, ‘is the taste of transience on the tongue – every year might be the last.’ It gave Weimar culture a unique tang. It sharpened a bitter creativity, a contempt for the present, an intelligence unrestricted by convention, until the sudden and irrevocable death. 

Interesting observations from someone who was there.  Maybe no one could put it back together again?

Related Posts: The Kant-Fichte Argument, Law At The End Of The Day, The Kant-Fichte Argument

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Ayan Hirsi Ali in The NY Times: Lee Harris’s ‘The Suicide Of Reason’

Ayan Hirsi Ali reviews The Suicide of Reason in the New York Times. Here is the link.

He [Harris} views Islamic imperialism as a single-minded expansion of the religion itself; the empire that it envisions is governed by Allah. In this sense, the idea of jihad is less about the inner struggle for peace and justice and more about a grand mission of conversion.”

I have found that many devout Muslims, as part of their faith, regard the world as a potential religious conquest.  But is Islam truly unique in this desire?

“…the concept of separating the sacred from the profane has never been acceptable in Islam the way it has been in Christianity.”


Harris goes on to argue that the Muslim world, since it is governed by the law of the jungle, makes group survival paramount. This explains in part the willingness of Muslims to become martyrs for the larger community, the umma — uniting peoples separated by geographical boundaries, with different cultures, heritages and languages.”

The argument seems to be that Islam places high value in group survival because they are more primitive and tribal.  As for us, we have an emphasis on individualism and personal freedom from which which Islam could benefit, but we also have the intellectual, religious, cultural, and political traditions that create and foster individualism and personal freedom.  

Noam Chomsky and Paul Wolfowitz agreed, Harris writes, “that you couldn’t really blame the terrorists, since they were merely the victims of an evil system — for Chomsky, American imperialism, for Wolfowitz, the corrupt and despotic regimes of the Middle East.”

Intersting point.  Harris focuses back on a dialogue which includes Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington about Islam and our relationship to it.  These thinkers obviously have limits to their ideas (especially those about Islam), and some advocated action in the Iraq war.   But have their ideas been sufficiently understood and addressed?

Ali questions Harris’s idea of reason on which he bases much of his book:

“The Enlightenment cannot be fully appreciated without a strong awareness of just how frail human reason is. That is why concepts like doubt and reflection are central to any form of decision-making based on reason.”

She seems to think Harris sets up “reason” as a basis for many of his ideas, makes some good points, but may not have the depth to address the issue as well as he could.  

Addition: Fouad Ajami has a piece on Huntington in the NY Times.

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The Best Of All Possible Universe(s)?

Breitbart has an article that leads with:

The deeper astronomers gaze into the cosmos, the more they find it’s a bizarre and violent universe.”



The equivalent of post-menopausal stars giving unlikely birth


“…galaxy-on-galaxy violence…”

Oh no….

and then a conclusion of:

Intellectually and spiritually, if I can use that word with a lower case ‘s,’ it’s awe-inspiring,” Wheeler said. “It’s a great universe.”

Would that be the best of all possible universe(s)? 

Here are the links the article suggests:  The American Astronomical Society and HubbleSite.

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Russell Jacoby on Public Intellectuals

Russell Jacoby’s a professor of History at UCLA, who wrote this book a few years back.

He claimed that instead of pursuing a literate, reading public, many intellectuals have bent to the tendency to cloister themselves in universities, and there… specialize in jargon, becoming irrelevant.

His new article rehashes the arguments he made some 20 years ago.

1.  Does his argument extend beyond the liberal arts, to the sciences and philosophy?

2.  Are people really interested in thinking for themselves ever going to be embraced by the public? even by their peers in universities?

3. What ethical obligation do professors have to communicate to an audience wider than that of their students and colleagues?

Relevant PostsShould You Bother To Get A Liberal Arts Education?, The Liberal Skew In Higher Education:  Becker-Posner Blog.

Addition:  The Wall Street Journal has a related piece here.

Another Addition:  Jacoby has an article about complexity and simplicity. 

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Should You Bother To Get A Liberal Arts Education? Allan Bloom, Camille Paglia and Anthony Kronman

It seems many people suspect that there has been something wrong with the quality of a Liberal Arts Education in the United States for some time, and the more serious-minded writers on the subject have tried to address the many broader social and cultural consequences that such a failure might have.

1. Allan Bloom’s Closing of The American Mind (good overview here) has a fairly wide intellectual vision, from Plato’s Republic, to Rousseau’s Emile, to many enduring works of literature.   Bloom argues that many forces conspire to prevent American college students from having a platform upon which to engage these works: thus being able to liberate their minds from the current prejudices, beliefs, social and intellectual trends into which they are born.  Without a central cultural vision of why these books are important, they, and we, suffer.

Personally, I think some of Bloom’s arguments suggest that he’s partially upset at living in a democracy at all, and his idealism certainly has its dangers, but he lays out some intelligent arguments.

2.   Camille Paglia’s consistently offered scathing criticisms of feminism and English department excesses (or the way in which Academies have co-opted 60’s radicalism).  Paglia particularly dislikes the way in which many English professors adopted Lacanian and Foucaultian metaphysics and thus in her opinion, pursued intellectual French faddishness at the expense of their students’ learning. 

Personally,  I think she’s probably upset that English departments will likely always seek some metaphysical ground for their thinking, however faddish…I think Paglia took Nietzsche onboard long ago (as did Lacan and Foucault) , and I take issue with many of her arguments as a result (you can’t always call them arguments).  She’s consistently objected to the darker side of feminism, the totalitarian urges and the intellectual threat-making by which it has sometimes succeeded.   I find her a healthy voice of dissent. 

3.  Currently, there is a book out by Anthony Kronman, entitled Education’s End (one review here, another here ).  Kronman is a former dean of Yale law school and current professor, not having read the book (yet), I can’t say very much. 

The crux of Kronman’s argument though, seems to be similar to Bloom’s, and this line of thinking has become a current staple of the right, who, in my opinion are in danger of holding up the current straw men of feminism, multiculturalism, diversity group-think merely to galvanize their position; regardless of how well-made the arguments.  That’s an easy danger anyways.

**Interestingly, Kronman apparently suggests that a German approach to American schooling is partly to blame….I remember first coming across that argument here.

Thanks for reading.

See Also:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

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