From Bloggingheads: Denis Dutton On His New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’

First 7:00 min here.

Dutton argues against what he views as the dominant intellectual and academic trend of the last 40 years:  art as a function of culture, and understood as such.  Rather than seeing art tied into a web of other political and philosophical ideas about culture (Marxism and social constructionism he mentions…he is a libertarian)

Dutton would like:

…to perhaps do what Noam Chomsky did for the study of language (there is a universal appartatus common to us all which is inexplicable through analysis alone…least of all through a post-modern and non-scientific analysis.  This approach has deepened and attached linguistics to something akin to Immanuel Kant’s metaphysics and philosophical transcendental idealism).

Dutton appears to rely on Kant, but also heavily on Darwin’s theory of evolution.

It’s quite a task to try and systematize, understand and explain the arts at all, and something only a philosopher might try.

Without having read it, I can say very little more than I’ve said, though I wonder a little at his motivations…

I’ve read the book and commented here:  Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Related On This Site:  How might Kantian metaphysics mesh with political philosophy?: More On Daniel Deudney’s Bounding PowerDaniel Deudney on Bloggingheads.   Jesse Prinz (with Nietzsche thrown in) wants to push the cognitive sciences toward Humean empiricism:  A Brief Review of Jesse Prinz’s ‘The Emotional Construction Of Morals’

Also:  Mixing Kant with Aesthetics?  apparently I can’t do it justice and look silly trying:  Some Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise…also a brief post on A Sympathetic View Of Noam Chomsky?

Seattle Earthquake-January 30th 2009-4.5 On The Richter Scale

Good info here at the USGS.

Apparently, it happen at 5:25 am PST, and I had no idea.  About 1 in 4 or 5 people I spoke with today either felt it, or were woken up enough to realize something had happened, but weren’t quite sure what.

Here’s a good map at the USGS site which measures how many people responded and intensity.

The vibrations and earth movement could be felt for only a few seconds, though it happened along the Nisqually fault, where the February 21, 2001 6.8 earthquake occured.

Map of that quake’s intensity here.

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Some Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

From Christopher Want’s Introducing Kant:

“In the case of the pyramids:

the eye needs some time to complete the apprehension from the base to the peak, but during that time some of the earlier parts are invariably extinguished in the Imagination before it has apprehended the later ones, and hence the comprehension is never complete..’  “

What about this video of a surfer on Maui’s north shore?

Perhaps you get a sense of awe and wonder at observing this wave, but this may have more to do with your imagination and your onboard apparatus for observing the wave than perhaps any necessary characteristic of the wave itself (for Kant, the imagination is a very specific category of perception, which can ((amended)) function without the rules of the understanding, especially in aesthetic representation but which ultimately is applied to the rules of the understanding to give us the best knowledge we have, which are in turn guided by the Ideas Of Reason…).

Here’s another quote:

“…a light broke upon all natural philosophers. They learned that reason only perceives that which it produces after its own design; that it must not be content to follow, as it were, in the leading-strings of nature, but must proceed in advance with principles of judgement according to unvarying laws, and compel nature to reply its questions.”

Immanuel KantPreface to the Critique of Pure Reason.

Newton’s 3rd Law might be a good example of those ‘unvarying’ laws.

Related On This Site:  When aesthetics goes too far?: Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And Thinkers…some problems with Kant and potential idealism when applied to American politics:  From The Internet Encyclopedia Of Knowledge: Immanuel Kant And Utilitarianism

From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Full audio here.

Art, of course, can transcend politics, as well as current social and intellectual trends.  What is good art…and bad…the truths found there…and whether or not artists transcend the deepest ideas that often drive them are matters of deep debate.

A different matter of debate, however, is whether or not the National Endowment For The Arts should receive fiscal stimulus money because it can potentially stimulate the economy.

OF course, those with self-interest in the matter think so, and the report (this is NPR, with its own fish to fry) focuses on them.  They also focus briefly on Brian Riedl, budget analyst at the Heritage foundation who sees no merit to the claim.


Of course, the artists could seek patrons (especially difficult in a tough economy), or use gimmicks to get people in the door (as common in Shakespeare’s day as it is now) or make a populist appeal directly to the people whose lives they can enrich without taking their tax dollars (these are difficult times for all).

Another question might be:  in what way do those making the appeal serve what good artists must transcend to provide them with a livelihood?

Also On This Site:  We’re already mixing art and politics, so…How Would Obama Respond To Milton Friedman’s Four Ways To Spend Money?

A Few Thoughts On The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict: No Questions…No Answers?

Quote found here at Jeffrey Goldberg’s site at The Atlantic:

A great sage once taught: He who claims to know the answer to the Middle East dispute doesn’t even know the question.”

My limited experience in looking at this problem has led to ever greater complexity and confusion:   an ancient history of settlement, displacement, conflict, relative peace, religious and other wars…religious (and highly abstract) deductions to land…lots of Western involvement from the Romans to the British…etc.  It goes on and on

I believe there has been a current American shift (mostly left) in opinion on Israel, and which Israel is foolish to ignore.  By focusing on the inequities of the current Israseli military actions, this conventional wisdom hasn’t fully recognized the dangers evident in the Hamas charter, or the deep wellspring of Arab hatred toward the Israelis (Israel doesn’t have a right to exist).  

As much as it may claim for itself, this viewpoint just seems to focus its lens on another part of the problem.

Of course, some of that Arab sentiment is also aimed at the West in general, based on genuine and legitimate grievance where mutual interest may lie…but also largely on a violent, ideological, and religiously extreme projection of the Arab world’s current failures (at least economic, social and educational) onto everyone else.  It has become Bin Laden’s raison d-etre.

As idealistic (especially politically so) as this is, I should also say that any foreign policy we make in the region should strive to recognize the Palestinians as subjects, and not objects in service of our own legitimate self-interest (which is a problem I have all too often with the American right).  We will reap what we sow, and so will Israel.

So, what was that question again?

Addition:  01/25/09 60 Minutes piece on one potential obstacle for the 2 state solution:  Israeli settlers.  Link here from Andrew Sullivan.

Another AdditionAaron David Miller on Bloggingheads discusses his book ‘The Much Too Promised Land.’  So what about practical policies, lobbyists, mutual interests, American politics, etc…?  This guy knows his stuff.

Also On This SiteFrom Bloggingheads: Anne Marie Slaughter And Stephen Walt discuss American Foreign policy and Obama’s options.  More On The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Western/Non-Western Forms Of Government?A Few Thoughts On The Current Israeli Military Operation Into Gaza: A Shift In U.S. Attitudes?


by pinkturtle2.

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Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’

Full post here.

If you’ve studied in a humanities department, you’ve probably noticed a divide between what you read and wrote there and the culture at large: movies, videos, music videos, songs, broadcast news etc… which (as Camille Paglia argues) is the culture for a majority of Americans. 

The author Frank Donoghue, whom Fish reviews, argues that it’s a losing proposition to even try and work against this tide, mostly for financial reasons:

“Such a vision of restored stability,” says Donoghue, “is a delusion” because the conditions to which many seek a return – healthy humanities departments populated by tenure-track professors who discuss books with adoring students in a cloistered setting – have largely vanished. Except in a few private wealthy universities (functioning almost as museums), the splendid and supported irrelevance of humanist inquiry for its own sake is already a thing of the past.

The departments are not self-sustaining, and it’s evident from within. 

I would argue that much of Donoghue’s thinking has likely been influenced by the idea that because there is a lack of a central vision of what liberal learning ought to consist of (in part due to the influences of Continental postmodernist thinkers, the tail end of Existentialism etc. again this is a Paglian view of things, with some Allan Bloom throw in)…

…as a result a result race identity, gender politics, and all manner of other interests (many politically left) have helped filled the void.  I won’t argue that these groups don’t contain a lot of truth as many other on the political right are doing. 

I will argue that from the current state of Humanities departments… these ideas are informing our politics and shaping public opinion…and the political and idealogical reactions to them (on the right)…for better or worse.

So does Donoghue have a solution?:

“In his preface, Donoghue tells us that he will “offer nothing in the way of uplifting solutions to the problems [he] describes.” In the end, however, he can’t resist recommending something and he advises humanists to acquire “a thorough familiarity with how the university works,” for “only by studying the institutional histories of scholarly research, of tenure, of academic status, and . . . of the ever-changing college curriculum, can we prepare ourselves for the future.”

Not really, though what he does offer seems practical.  


As mentioned:  I have some doubts about Fish’s larger interpretation of affairs…a tendency to view the arts, humanities, and philosophy itself through a certain lens.  (Fish teaches a course on conservative philosophy..hopefully in the better sense of that word…conservare…). 

Many people, especially on the political right, have been motivated by similar interpretations (sophistry?) of what’s going on…

See Also On This Site: Martha Nussbaum saw this coming a while ago, but is her platform broad enough?: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

  A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche ConnectionStanley Fish In The NY Times: More Colorado FolliesFrom The Boston Globe: Literature Needs To Embrace Science

AlsoShould You Bother To Get A Liberal Arts Education? Allan Bloom, Camille Paglia and Anthony KronmanHow To Study Literature: M.H. Abrams In The Chronicle Of Higher Ed.

by kinkazzo  Poor Old Harold Bloom

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Garrett Mattingly On Machiavelli-The Prince: Political Science Or Political Satire?

Full article here.

“The notion that The Prince is what it pretends to be, a scientific manual for tyrants, has to contend not only against Machiavelli’s life but against his writings, as, of course, everyone who wants to use The Prince as a centerpiece in an exposition of Machiavelli’s political thought has recognized…”

Mattingly (wikipedia), a historian, argues that this short work of Machiavelli’s overshadows his attempts at plays, poems and prose, and overlooks the following:

“‘…Popular rule is always better than the rule of princes.’ This is not just a casual remark. It is the main theme of the Discorsi and the basic assumption of all but one of Machiavelli’s writings, as it was the basic assumption of his political career.”

Well, perhaps Machiavelli did really believe in the traditional virtues (Christian, Aristotelian?) and thus did not truly question those traditional beliefs…

…and instead perhaps The Prince should be viewed more as work of art in the vein of his other works (and not as philosophy necessarily?) as Mattingly argues…

Are you convinced?

See Also On This SiteFrom Nigel Warburton’s Virtual Philosopher: Machiavelli Is Always RelevantFriday Quotations: Machiavelli And The Founders

Niccolo Machiavelli by Crashworks

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More On The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Western/Non-Western Forms Of Government?

Here’s an offering on the Huntingtonian idea of a rift between West and let’s call it…the non-West:


America and Iraq

1a.  Our decision to pursue and protect our own interests and spread our own vision of democracy in Iraq (formed and being formed by our own intellectual, political and religious traditions…and which has met the Iraqis mostly through military force)…

can be contrasted with:

1b.   The reality of the conditions on the ground in Iraq we’ve in part helped to create…the actual will and desires of the Iraqi people…the intellectual, political and religious traditions and conflicts of these people which have formed and inform the present.


Israel and the Palestinians:

2a  The Israelis are pursuing a very Western form of government in a non-Western part of the world with a long history.   They are [living] in what they see (and many Muslims agree) as an existential threat.  They are also pursuing and protecting their political, intellectual and religious traditions through their democracy and use of force through military action. 

2b.  They have helped to create many of the conditions on the ground in Gaza: (attacks which kill civilians during military operations, a lack of basic necessities including food and medicine, and limited range of freedom and autonomy among others).    The people of Palestine have democratically elected Hamas…and while Hamas does provide social programs with the Palestinian people in mind…it publically refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist,  and seeks to protect what it sees as its social, religious and intellectual traditions through force and violence and a rather frightening charter.

Israel does not recognize the legitimacy of Hamas, and refuses to deal with it, and thus (presently) the Palestinian people through any legitimate government.

It should be mentioned that some see the Huntingtonian map as too limiting in its depths…and I don’t know how much justice I’ve done it here.

Addition:  Anthony Cordesman’s smart analysis at CSIS.

See Also On This Site:  Fukuyama disagrees with Huntington and thinks people want to modernize for many reasons:  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…Stanley Kurtz discusses Huntington and Fukuyama and argues Fukyama has taken unwanted Hegelian idealism on board to achieve this vision (to further define his vision of the American right?) From The Hoover Institution: Stanley Kurtz On Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington

Also the previous post: A Few Thoughts On The Current Israeli Military Operation Into Gaza: A Shift In U.S. Attitudes?

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A Few Thoughts On The Current Israeli Military Operation Into Gaza: A Shift In U.S. Attitudes?

You may have noticed a shift in thinking about Israel lately, or a greater willingness in American political and social life (mostly on the left, but not only) to consider the conditions and injustices under which the Palestinians live.

There may be many reasons for this:

1.   A reaction to some of the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq…combined with a weak economy.

2.   A still relatively intellectually confused but resurgent American left.

3.   A demographic shift toward a larger Arab population in both Europe and the U.S.

4.   Our interaction with the Arab world through rapidly advancing technology.


As Israel sees it (and there are many good reasons for seeing it this way),  any concession to the violence of Hamas is unacceptable.  Any loss of Israeli life to a Hamas rocket attack is cause for military operation to protect the civil order.   Despite the rallying anger, resentment and threats of violence by much the Arab world (to which the Israelis have long since steeled themselves) they’ve gone ahead and pursued a military operation.


I don’t necessarily have a response to such current events…

…so much as I’d argue that one of our most important shared interests with Israel is still through its functioning democracy:  Israeli military force is eventually answerable to the Israeli people through its laws, lawmakers, and ultimately to the people themselves.  This is a form of government cast in our own image, with which we identify and understand as vital to our own freedoms and way of life. 

The current wellspring of sentiment in America toward the Palestinian situation has important truths to it…but look for it to be used accordingly by groups for peace…for aid…for Islam…for justice…and more generally by U.S. politicians as they may eventually navigate these waters.  As a result, perhaps U.S. foreign policy in the region may gradually be changing in much the same way…if it hasn’t been already.

Are you convinced?


by pinkturtle2.

Addition:  It’s probably pretty obvious I’m been taking a look at Samuel Huntington lately…and don’t fully address the depth of his thinking.

From The Hoover Institution: Stanley Kurtz On Francis Fukuyama and Samuel HuntingtonFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Bloggingheads: Eli Lake And Heather Hurlbert On Samuel HuntingtonFrom The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

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From Bloggingheads: Andrew Bacevich And Heather Hurlburt Discuss Afghanistan And Pakistan

Diavlog here.

Both wonder where military, defense and strategic decision-making overlaps with moral obligation.  Our military forces have occupied Afghanistan for quite some time…what next?

Bacevich (wikipedia) has experience in the military and a strongly religious and theological background (he also stresses the importance of keeping the military out of politics). 


Is a belief in the end of American exceptionalism merely a strong reaction against the failures and hubris of this administration…

…or perhaps of foreign policy mistakes and longer-term thinking that has shaped it?

Has the thinking behind the end of American exceptionalism argument actually transcended the traditions that have so often lead to exceptionalism…? 

Recent Related Posts On This SiteFrom The Hoover Institution: Stanley Kurtz On Francis Fukuyama and Samuel HuntingtonFrom The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkA Few Thoughts On The FATA Region Of Pakistan.

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