Giordano Bruno In The New Yorker: The Forbidden World By Joan Acocella

Full review here.

Where mysticism, metaphysics and heresy meet?

“In this system, there were three main ideas:


“an infinite cosmos, consisting of innumerable heliocentric worlds”…


“that the universe was a vast, wheeling, unknowable thing, and that all theories about it, including his own, were not descriptions but merely approaches—“models,” as we would call them today.”

None of his ideas were completely original, apparently, but they were advanced, and woven into a metaphysical system that directly challenged chruch doctrine.  The church was not pleased.  In her review, Acocella also claims:

“Whatever else Bruno was, he was wild-minded and extreme…”

This also seems to have contributed to the church’s decision to burn him at the stake.

See Also:  A poem about Bruno by American poet Heather McHugh: What He Thought by Heather McHugh

From The American Conservative: Going Off The Rawls–David Gordon On John Rawls

Full article here.

David Gordon offers a surprisingly deep analysis of some of John Rawls’s ideas.

Perhaps classical liberalism and utilitarianism would be a good antidote to much of the far left’s current excesses (gender equity ideologues, radical feminists, racial theorists, pseudo and real Marxists). Martha Nussbaum (wikipedia) seems busy along this vein.   Yet utilitariansm, as Rawls realized, has its limits:

“Some people’s interests, or even lives, can be sacrificed if doing so will maximize total satisfaction. Suppose executing the Danish cartoonists will appease a Muslim mob, and that doing so increases total satisfaction. A utilitarian would have to endorse the execution. As Rawls says, “there is a sense in which classical utilitarianism fails to take seriously the distinction between persons.”

On the other hand, individualism has its limits as well.   According to Rawls there still has to be some common ground which we all share…

“Rawls thinks that everyone, regardless of his plan of life or conception of the good, will want certain “primary goods.” These include rights and liberties, powers and opportunities, income and wealth, and self-respect.”

So how do you define these “primary goods?’ and balance both equality and individualism?  Rawls offers his difference principle (there should be no differences except those that can be justified on grounds of efficiency), as well as his idea of public reason .  Gordon isn’t too impressed:

“[public reason]…consists of principles that everyone, regardless of his conception of the good, will have cause to accept.”

“His final position was that you could mention your private views as long as you also had an argument from public reason to support your stand.”

We are all familiar with the idea that there are common public ideas that we have to accept, or at least pay heed to.  Yet, Gordon seems to ask:   Do we want a theory like this one to be the arbiter of those ideas?

John Rawls His Life and Theory of Justice

by Miller Info Commons

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Charles Krauthammer From March 2006: Fukuyama’s Fantasy

Full post here.

Charles Krauthammer was not happy with Fukuyama’s retraction of support for the Iraq war and the neoconservative project which found import with the Bush administration.  At a speech he gave, Krauthammer asserts he had not said the war was:

” ‘an unqualified success’ “

as Fukuyama claimed…but rather that the event was:

“…a fairly theoretical critique of the four schools of American foreign policy: isolationism, liberal internationalism, realism and neoconservatism. The only successes I attributed to the Iraq war were two, and both self-evident: (1) that it had deposed Saddam Hussein and (2) that this had made other dictators think twice about the price of acquiring nuclear weapons…”

According to the Krauthammer of 2006, there is a case for moral realism, and advocating the use of American military force against radical Islam in Iraq.  Fukuyama was overlooking this position in his retreat from the war, and using Krauthammer as a foil. 

“My argument then, as now, was the necessity of this undertaking, never its ensured success”

Necessity?  Currently that’s a tough case to make, even for Krauthammer.  It will also likely be harder to defend steely eyed realism (moral and otherwise) now as it’s been conflated with the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq.  What good may come there will still be mixed with the familiar arrogance, over-reach, and narrow idealism the administration has brought to the middle-east.

Of course,the current liberal resurgence will potentially have its own narrow idealism, definitions of freedom, and visions of the wider world.

See Also:  Francis Fukuyama At The Washington Post: They Can Only Go So Far, and what I think are potential dangers of the Nietzschean influence behind some of Fukuyama’s and other neoconservative thinking: A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche Connection

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Francis Fukuyama At The Washington Post: They Can Only Go So Far

Full post here.

He responds to the recent edisode in Georgia, Russian and Chinese nationalism, and evaluates other global forces at work.

He also keeps distancing himself from the neocons and this adminstration’s missteps, and seems to now be acknowledging a more liberal, Fareed Zakaria-ish type of global liberal nationalism, but without the declinism: 

“We need a much more nuanced conceptual framework for understanding the non-democratic world if we are not to become prisoners of an imagined past. And we shouldn’t get excessively discouraged about the strength of our own ideas, even in a “post-American” world.”

See AlsoSo, Is America In Decline?Mikhail Gorbachev In The NY Times Op-Ed: Russia Never Wanted A WarEric Posner At The Volokh Conspiracy: The Bear Is Back!

New:  Charles Krauthammer From March 2006: Fukuyama’s Fantasy

by frontpersatuannasional
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Jonathan Meades On Le Corbusier At The New Statesman

Full post here.

Meades seems interested in defending Le Corbusier (wikipedia):

“He remains, more than 40 years after his death, the hate figure of tectonically blind anti-modernists,  the quality of his work is deeper than the current criticism surrounding him…

Perhaps Meades’s best defense is on aesthetic grounds:

“The problem is that both his detractors and his acolytes want to believe that his written manifestos, urbanistic visions, utopian ideologies and theories are compatible with his buildings.”

In other words, Le Corbusier made beautiful, aesthetically profound buildings and he stayed true to his art enough to outlast these critics.

Perhaps anti-modernist, anti-socialist tendencies do fuel some Roger Scruton’s criticism, but Meades’ tunnel vision doesn’t exactly convince.  I am a little wary of Le Corbusier’s idealism, and I don’t find the charge of aesthetic totalitarianism entirely untenable:

The fact that this debate is occuring in American right-wing and British left-wing magazines may be worthy of mention.

See Also:  Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?  Brasilia: A Planned City

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From The Guardian: Peter Conrad Reviews Books By Daniel Barenboim And Edward Said

Full review here.

Conrad, a music critic, seems to be saying:  we don’t pay listen to Barenboim because of his philosophy, and we don’t read Said because he used to be a pianist.  Also (it’s personal for Conrad), perhaps many people are reading Said because he’s fashionable at the moment…

Best lines:

“Barenboim, who says that he reads Spinoza in his dressing room during intervals, worries about ‘musical ethics’ and fusses over ‘the moral responsibility of the ear’. I’m not sure that a sense organ can carry such a burden; we don’t ask our penises to possess a conscience.”

Charles Murray In The WSJ: For Most People, College Is A Waste Of Time

Full article here.

Murray is still trying to infuse interesting ideas, often libertarian ones, into public debate.  One of his challenges seems to be how to save egalitarianism from the egalitarians:

“Here’s the reality: Everyone in every occupation starts as an apprentice. Those who are good enough become journeymen. The best become master craftsmen. ”

Murray is not so extremely individualist as to not advocate hierarchies, but rather argues that they should be primarily based on economic freedoms and the reward of economic motivations. 

He also accepts that:

“…in an increasingly class-riven America…[O]ur obsession with the BA has created a two-tiered entry to adulthood, anointing some for admission to the club and labeling the rest as second-best.” 

Over time, if such a trend is statistically valid, it could become dangerous.  Murray’s solution however, seems a little drastic: 

“The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees.”

Just because the B.A. is becoming over-valued….do we need to scrap it?

Just a thought: In this line of thinking, one could even suggest that one of the reasons why science scores in the U.S. are slipping is because people who aren’t scientists tend to have the most influence educationally and culturally on our youth.   But of course, like many people concerned about education, Murray’s in the social sciences.

See Also:  Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

 by rsmoffat
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Bloggingheads Discussion Of Moral Realism

Full discussion here.

We may be in a period of culturally dominant moral relativism. 

However,  Don Loeb doesn’t argue for moral relativism, but for moral irrealism.  Ultimately, (if I get him right) you can’t root moral thinking in any transcendant law or form of knowledge.   You can have values like Loeb does, but you can’t make factual assertions about morality. 

Peter Railton takes the opposing view but his moments of “moral awakening” at recognizing the depth of jazz and the wrongs of politically excluded women while consistent…may be…a little too convenient.

Is that really the best application of moral realism given the problems of the world?  It makes me want to read Machiavelli.

See Also: Jesse Prinz goes so far as to defend moral relativism Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”

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