Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’

Full post here.

Darwin and the arts.  Kirsch has an interesting piece reviewing 3 books, including one by Denis Dutton.  What might neuroaesthetics have to say about art that hasn’t been said already?

‘This sensible reticence served both art and science well enough for more than a century after Darwin’s death. But with the rise of evolutionary psychology, it was only a matter of time before the attempt was made to explain art in Darwinian terms. After all, if ethics and politics can be explained by game theory and reciprocal altruism, there is no reason why aesthetics should be different: in each case, what appears to be a realm of human autonomy can be reduced to the covert expression of biological imperatives. The first popular effort in this direction was the late Denis Dutton’s much-discussed book The Art Instinct, which appeared in 2009.’

Worth a read.

More broadly, it’s interesting to note how art, aesthetics, morality, moral reasoning, ethics etc. are being attached to Darwin’s thinking.  For some, I suspect, it is to advance a secular humanist platform which is full of oughts and shoulds for all of us in other areas of life, including politics and culture.

Related On This Site:  Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’Denis Dutton R.I.P.-December 28th, 2010 …From Bloggingheads: Denis Dutton On His New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’A Few More Thoughts On Denis Dutton’s New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’

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…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…Adam Kirsch At The Prospect: ‘America’s Superman’… From The Spiked Review Of Books: “Re-Opening The American Mind”.

Some say we’re just selfish, others disagree-Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’Adam Kirsch In The New Republic On Slavoj Zizek: The Deadly JesterSlavoj Zizek In The New Republic: Responding To Adam Kirsch

From The Detroit Free Press: ‘Detroit Bankruptcy Creditors Ask Judge To Take Steps Toward Sale Of DIA Treasures’

Full piece here.

In case you missed it:

‘The DIA has pledged to protect its collection vigorously in court. Michigan’s attorney general has issued a formal opinion stating that a forced sale of art would be illegal because the museum holds the works in the public trust, but legal experts say the ruling may not hold up in court’

How did Detroit get here?

Very comprehensive and easy to navigate.

More from Megan McArdle on the behavior that comes with pension bonuses:  Not worth saving.

Some links on this site: Charlie LeDuff, Detroit’s populist, citizen journalist’s youtube channel here.  At least he’s sticking around.

Are you looking at beautiful photos and feeling sorry for Detroit, and yourself?  See Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

A garage sale for the city’s art? Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘Detroit’s Van Gogh Would Be Better Off in L.A.’From The Detroit Free Press: ‘DIA’s Art Collection Could Face Sell-Off To Satisfy Detroit’s Creditors’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest

From Bloomberg: ‘Detroit Recovery Plan Threatens Muni-Market Underpinnings’

Views From A Citizen: Some Positives/Negatives On The Iran Deal

From Time World Magazine:

Some details at the link:

‘For the moment, diplomacy and dialogue have won the day, but the talks will have to continue — and trust between Iran and its Western interlocutors will have to deepen — before a lasting deal can be reached.’

There’s a kind of ‘upper middle-brow’ liberal secular-humanist worldview being appealed to in the article, I suspect.  It has some truths to point out.

Some positives:

There was heavy use of back-channels in the Iran deal, meaning some people on both sides were sticking their necks out pretty far.  Often, this is how the best diplomacy happens.  There was a rare window with the election of Hassan Rouhani and the departure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to make something happen.  Not all Iranians, after all, like living under a repressive, thugocratic Islamic regime and many took serious risks to express their discontent during the 2011-2012 election protests.  This is an accomplishment as there were few if any possibilities short of a very risky war or a ratcheting-up and potential escalation of those sanctions and rhetoric likely leading to intervention and/or war.

Some negatives:

We’ve now sacrificed the sanctions that took over a decade to enforce and maintain.  We’ve freed up the Iranian economy in exchange for an iffy first-step in a tentative deal.  We’ve got an idealistic, weakened leader searching for his legacy while ignoring other unresolved crises (Syria especially) around the Middle-East.  We’re pulling out of the region without full consideration of our interests, objectives and potential consequences.

We aren’t building coalitions both at home and abroad robust enough to achieve those objectives, even if they are aiming for this peace deal.

Iran will likely continue pursuing regional domination, which will include all manner of nastiness and violation of international norms and law while destabilizing and undermining the interests of the West and most of the rest of the region.  Many people in Iran who control the deep State can be assumed to have no real intention of stopping enrichment either.

On this site: ‘Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least

So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

From The SFGate: ‘California High-Speed Rail Plans Stopped In Tracks’

Full piece here.

‘A Sacramento judge put the brakes on California’s plans to build a bullet train after dual rulings Monday blocked the sale of $8 billion in bonds and ordered the rail authority to rewrite its funding plans for the huge project.’

and:

Kenny’s decision found that the rail authority “abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of law.”

Alternate headlines:  ‘Going Off The Rails’ or ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’

From California’s High Speed Rail Authority Site:

‘California high-speed rail will connect the mega-regions of the state, contribute to economic development and a cleaner environment, create jobs and preserve agricultural and protected lands’

What could go wrong?

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California’s anti-union and anti-immigration democrat-Full video and background on Mickey Kaus here.

A good post on Robinson Jeffers from Malcolm Greenhill, which highlights how the rugged and vast beauty of California makes it easier to imagine what culture is, and what it ought to be on this outpost of Western Civilization.

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-A link for Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, public pensions and Schwarzenegger’s time in office.

Related On This Site:  Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’Victor Davis Hanson At The City Journal: ‘California, Here We Stay’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’ A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

The people who promise solutions to poverty and homelessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

Michael Doran At The Brookings Institution: ‘The Hidden Cost Of The Iranian Nuclear Deal’

Full piece here.

‘One’s evaluation of the nuclear deal depends on how one understands the broader context of US-Iranian relations. There are potential pathways ahead that might not be all that bad. But I am pessimistic. I see the deal as a deceptively pleasant way station on the long and bloody road that is the American retreat from the Middle East.’ 

And he finishes with:

That, in sum, is the true price that we just paid for six months of seeming quiet on the nuclear front. It is price in prestige, which most Americans will not notice. It is also a price in blood. But it is not our blood, so Americans will also fail to make the connection between the violence and the nuclear deal. It is important to note, however, that this is just the initial price. Six months from now, when the interim agreement expires, another payment to Ayatollah Khamenei will come due. If Obama doesn’t pony up, he will have to admit then that he cut a bad deal now. So he we will indeed pay — through the nose.’

What are some consequences to our general retreat and diminished presence in the Middle-East?

This blog wants to get opposing views out there:

Charlie Hill, before the last election, suggested that if America doesn’t lead onto a new set of challenges that now face the West, then Europe surely isn’t capable of leading either.  If we don’t strike out on our own as Truman did with bold leadership after World War II, we will end a generations long experiment in American exceptionalism.  If we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values, probably will.

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Addition: How is this current deal like/unlike the Kissinger/Nixon back-channeled detente that broke new ground with the Chinese?  How is it like/unlike the kind of commitments that Carter showed at Camp David with Sadat/Begin?

It’d be nice if this all worked out, and this blog would welcome this avenue towards a pursuit of our interests, but naturally, there’s a lot of warranted skepticism here.

Another Addition: A former CIA director calls it ‘the worst of all possible outcomes.‘  The Iranians have bought time, and maybe just a means to legitimize their nuclear ambitions even more.

From the Jerusalem Post, it’s looking like the right to enrich uranium in the first place is a sticking point.  The clock is ticking, and many costs have already built up. Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least

So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism Reviews E.O. Wilson’s ‘The Social Conquest Of Earth’

Full piece here.

NY Times review here for contrast.

E.O. Wilson is a popular biologist and naturalist, known particularly for his work with ants.  Arnhart reviews:

‘To answer these fundamental questions about our human place in the cosmos, Edward O. Wilson suggests in his new book, we need to unify all our knowledge of nature by combining the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities.  Traditionally, we have looked to religion, philosophy, or the creative arts to answer these great questions.  Wilson argues that these three ways to understand the human condition have failed.  This leaves science–in its quest for a complete knowledge of nature–as the only way to understand the human story.’

That sounds extremely ambitious.  Who needs religion, philosophy, or the creative arts when they don’t yield the same standard of knowledge Wilson is proposing?

Arnhart’s suggests looking to…philosophy:

‘If Wilson’s project for a Darwinian unification of knowledge is to succeed, it must revive that Aristotelian tradition of natural philosophy that includes Thomas Aquinas, Hume, and Adam Smith.  Darwin understood himself as part of that intellectual tradition, particularly in adopting ideas from Hume and Smith about the natural moral sentiments.  Even Darwin’s fundamental idea of the evolutionary emergence of life as an unintended order was derived from Smith and other Scottish philosophers’

So isn’t there a tension between Aristotelians and Platonists?  If neo-Platonists give-up the World-Of-Forms as a source of transcendental knowledge, will they slip into the modern problem of nihilism?

Is Darwinism nihilism?  If you are a Platonist, yes.  If you are not a Platonist, no.
Most Platonists today are disappointed Platonists—people with Platonic expectations that are unfulfilled, because they accept Darwinian evolution as true, and therefore since all living forms have evolved, they cannot be eternal in conforming to Plato’s intelligible realm of eternal Ideas.  If everything has evolved, this must include moral and political order, and thus there is no eternally unchanging Idea of the Good by which we can see absolute standards of right and wrong.  Consequently, there are no moral absolutes, and we must accept moral relativism or nihilism. Darwinism is “true but deadly” (as Friedrich Nietzsche said).  And thus these disappointed Platonists become nihilists.’
As always, worth a read.  Below is Wilson briefly discussing the book on Charlie Rose:
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**Martha Nussbaum has used Aristotle’s natural philosophy.  On this site, see: Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Martha Nussbaum On Aristotle’

***In the realm of political philosophy, for what it’s worth, many libertarians and liberaltarians in lieu of tracing the moral source of the laws back to a transcendent God (thus creating daylight between themselves and religious and often social conservatives), instead turn to the ‘classical’ liberalism of the Scottish Enlightenment:  Hume’s empiricism and atheism, Smith’s invisible hand, and later Hayek’s adoption of Hume’s principle that the propositions of ethics cannot be proven.

In addition to putting daylight between themselves and religious conservatives, this tends to put a lot of daylight between these classical liberals and the increasingly progressive Democratic party in the U.S.  See this position fleshed out: Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

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-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.’

Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

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?’

From The NY Times: ‘Deal Reached With Iran Halts Its Nuclear Program’

Full piece here.

The Iranian regime says it will stop enrichment beyond 5%, and dissolve uranium enriched to 20%.  Click through for details.

‘The freeze would last six months, with the aim of giving international negotiators time to pursue the far more challenging task of drafting a comprehensive accord that would ratchet back much of Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it could be used only for peaceful purposes.’

I suspect John Kerry and his connections had a fair amount to do with the deal.  Back-channels are usually key to these kinds of deals.

Iran gets $6 to $7 billion in relief on economic sanctions which have hobbled the economy (and these people are dealers).  The regime will presumably continue its aims of regional hegemony through all the other means available, including terrorism.  It’s kind of a thugocracy. These may still not be the kinds of people we can do business with:

But some experts, including a former official who has worked on the Iranian issue for the White House, said it was unlikely that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would ever close the door on the option to develop nuclear weapons. Instead, they said, any initial six-month agreement is more likely to be followed by a series of partial agreements that constrain Iran’s nuclear activities but do not definitively solve the nuclear issues.’

Cautious optimism?

Have we really brought the regime in from the cold and enticed it through realpolitik carrots and sticks into lawful obligations?

Cynical skepticism?

Will the thugocracy continue to nod towards its lawful obligations while getting ever closer to deliverable nukes, proving we may have lost more than we’ve gained in this process?

What about regional stability with the Saudis & Israelis especially, but Hezbollah, Syria, the Russians and that ever dangerous Shia/Sunni split.

This rogue blogger’s proud of seeing the Brzezinski/Scowcroft connection.  See the previous post.

Addition:  Is there even a deal that reaches beyond the sticking point of the right to enrich at all?

Another Addition:  It’s hard to see how very much has changed at all in the region, now that this piece of paper has been signed, and it’s a little mystifying to think of the time and energy that’s gone into it, and how little the Iranian regime can be trusted, and how little we’ve gained.

This blog doesn’t remain cynically skeptical, it remains wisely skeptical, and watching closely to many of the same dynamics as before.

What has Iran gained?  John Bolton:

‘First, it bought time to continue all aspects of its nuclear-weapons program the agreement does not cover (centrifuge manufacturing and testing; weaponization research and fabrication; and its entire ballistic missile program)

Second, Iran has gained legitimacy

Third, Iran has broken the psychological momentum and effect of the international economic sanctions

We’re playing with fire here, and with decisions that could affect us for generations to come.

Addition:  From the Jerusalem Post, it’s looking like the right to enrich uranium in the first place is a sticking point.  The clock is ticking, and many costs have already built up. Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least

So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments