I think Mansfield is taking on some products of the Enlightenment that he argues have holed up on our universities, namely modernism and postmodernism, in the humanities:
‘It is the job of the humanities to make non-science into something positive that could be called human in the best sense. This crucial work, which is necessary to science and, may I add, more difficult and more important than science, is hardly even addressed in our universities.’
Via Strauss, I suspect he’s arguing that this approach has backed science into a bit of a corner…by groups of people who’ve eaten up their own departments via their theories; they have reduced themseleves to vainly copying the sciences and throwing up their hands, having politicized their own fields:
‘To scientists, the university is divided into science and non-science; the latter is not knowledge and is likely to be mush (in this last they are right). Scientists easily forget that science cannot prove science is good, that their whole project is founded upon what is at best unscientific common sense.’
Which leads to wistful sighing and a lament to the atmosphere he witnesses on campus:
“Adjusting to change” is now the unofficial motto of Harvard, mutabilitas instead of veritas. To adjust, the new Harvard must avoid adherence to any principle that does not change, even liberal principle. Yet in fact it has three principles: diversity, choice, and equality. To respect change, diversity must serve to overcome stereotypes, though stereotypes are necessary to diversity.’
Such may be the times.
Also On This Site: Straussians likely see a long fall away from virtue, from Natural right, from the reason/revelation distinction into the flawed logic of moral relativism and the triumph of a post-Enlightenment pursuit of truth under reason alone (addition: and the 1st and 2nd crises of modernity); the successes and dangers of historicism: From Volokh: Harvey Mansfield Reviews ‘The Executive Unbound’…From The Weekly Standard: Harvey Mansfield Reviews Paul Rahe’s “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift”…Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo Strauss
I’m not sure Martha Nussbaum has higher ed quite right: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’…
Peter Singer discusses Hegel and Marx…From Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’
Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgements apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment…Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’
More Harvard silliness: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?
Bryan Magee’s series available on youbtube is useful: 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…Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…