Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’

Full review here.

Tzvetan Todorov is primarily a literary theorist, but it’s often worth highlighting the following:

“Or take the current fetishisation of The Science, or as Todorov calls it, ‘scientism’.”

and

“We experience this most often, although far from exclusively, through environmentalist discourse. Here, science supplants politics. Competing visions of the good are ruled out in favour of that which the science demands, be it reduced energy consumption or a massive wind-power project. This, as Todorov sees it, involves a conflation of two types of reasoning, the moral (or the promotion of the good) and the scientific (or the discovery of truth”

On this analysis, those who would defend skepticism and political conservatism against climate change politics (demanding less, much less and in some ways more, from their politics …and with a healthier understanding of what politics can do) are boxed out.

But our author is somewhat critical of Todorov’s approach:

“Any redemption of the hopes of the Enlightenment, any revival of the core principles of Enlightenment, from autonomy to secularism, can never be a purely intellectual exercise.”

Is that a dose of Historicism?

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As for literary theory, here’s Roger Scruton on the subject of the humanities:

“In the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.

and

“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.”

And I’d argue with greater consequences for all of us…just some thoughts…are you convinced?

Also On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Martha Nussbaum says the university needs to be defend Socratic reason and still be open to diversity:  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’…Leo Strauss says The Enlightenment and the dangers of the project of Reason can be gotten around through his reason/revelation distinction:  Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

Repost-Is Psychology A Science? From Richard Feynman’s ‘Cargo Cult Science’Repost-From Scientific Blogging: The Humanities Are In Crisis-Science Is Not

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Accused Gets His Say In Columbia Rape Case’

Full piece here.

An accounting of the facts of the case and the current lawsuit against Columbia.

McArdle doesn’t think the suit will get too far:

But perhaps winning the suit is not the point. I wonder if many of the men in question aren’t simply rebelling against the system, determined to get their side of the story on the record somewhere — for much the same reason that Sulkowicz said she filed a complaint against Nungesser. He can’t silence her, and he shouldn’t have that power. But he can force the media to pay a little attention to his side of the story, something that didn’t happen during the many long months of Sulkowicz’s campaign to name and shame him.’

Some details here (pretty graphic and pretty sad).

Cathy Young At The Daily Beast-‘Columbia Student: I Didn’t Rape Her’ Cathy Young At Minding The Campus: ‘The Brown Case: Does It Still Look Like Rape?

Wednesday Poem-Donald Justice

Bus Stop

Lights are burning
In quiet rooms
Where lives go on
Resembling ours.

The quiet lives
That follow us—
These lives we lead
But do not own—

Stand in the rain
So quietly
When we are gone,
So quietly . . .
And the last bus
Comes letting dark
Umbrellas out—
Black flowers, black flowers.

And lives go on.
And lives go on
Like sudden lights
At street corners

Or like the lights
In quiet rooms
Left on for hours,
Burning, burning.

Donald Justice

Anglo-Relations, ISIS And ‘Mattress Artists’

John Bew At The American Interest: ‘Pax Anglo-Saxonica

‘The failure of Wilsonianism, the collapse of the peace movement, and the weakness of the League of Nations in the interwar years are usually presented as evidence of the utter impracticability of a liberal world order. For Tooze, this misses the point. Such efforts were indeed deeply flawed, not least because of Wilson’s own uncertainty about America’s superpower status. But the outbreak of World War II proved not that liberal international order was impractical but that it was absolutely necessary, albeit in a more realistic form. As Tooze puts it, “The restless search for a new way of securing order and peace was the expression not of deluded idealism, but of a higher form of realism.”

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Michael Totten at World affairs: ‘Under The Black Flag:’

Totten reviews ‘ISIS: Inside The Army Of Terror

‘Like all good historians, they start at the beginning. ISIS began its life as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) after the United States demolished Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003. The Bush administration saw Arab democracy as the solution to the Middle East’s woes, and Syria’s tyrant Bashar al-Assad didn’t want to be the next Saddam. Assad waged a proxy war to convince Washington that participatory politics in the region would be perilous. Weiss and Hassan quote former Syrian diplomat Bassam Barabandi, who says candidly that “[Assad] started to work with the mujahideen.” He dispatched Syria’s homegrown jihadists to fight American occupation forces, and most of those jihadists would sign up with AQI. Assad pulled off a win-win scheme, purging Syria of potential enemies while teaching both the American government and citizenry a lesson they still haven’t forgotten: Occupying and democratizing an Arab land is a far messier and bloodier business than most in the West are willing to stomach.’

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Unfortunately, a girl with problems amplified those problems into becoming a ‘mattress artist’ (not a real artist), an arch victim (the ideology rewards it), a cause celebre, and a prime example of why ideologues and activists really shouldn’t be running their own kangaroo campus courts.  Rape, of course, still remains a serious crime and moral horror despite the efforts of such activists and confused people to make it less so.

These are not people who act as though they want to live in a civilized society.

Such bad logic and bad incentives go not only to the top of Columbia, but much higher at the moment…

Some details here (pretty graphic and pretty sad).

Cathy Young At The Daily Beast-‘Columbia Student: I Didn’t Rape Her’Cathy Young At Minding The Campus: ‘The Brown Case: Does It Still Look Like Rape?

Let’s You And Me Plan A Society

Joseph Heath from ‘In Due Course:’ ‘Response To Tabarrok

Interesting piece.

‘To all these charges I plead guilty. Substantively, the book is actually a work of profound pessimism. The key point of chapters 6 and 7 was to show that rationality does not just come and go (or as Jonathan Kay suggested, “these things move in cycles”), but that there is actually a hazardous dynamic at work in our culture that tends to crowd out rationality. The real model for my thinking here is addictive substances, the accumulation of which is clearly directional, and the net effect of which is to create an environment more hostile to rational life-planning.’

Any thoughts are welcome.

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The below paragraphs are worth the price of admission, and a ramble through the bramble:

I tend to look at much post-Enlightenment rationalism as dealing with the same stuff of human nature that the major religions have for millennia.  Even very smart people I’ve known (great hardware, quick and ready acquisition of knowledge, powerful and precise memories) usually know more than everyone else about a one or two things, a little about a lot of things (albeit a wider range), and virtually nothing about most everything under the sun.

Some have been people of great and admirable character while many others, simply put, have not (with a few cranks and crackpots thrown in for good measure).  Even decent men can end-up in a bad way given a few bad choices, but a man making clear arguments for well-reasoned positions in full possession of his faculties is a thing to behold. As for final judgment, this is, alas, a blog, dear reader, so I trust you have your grain of salt ready.

Now, we’ll always need smart people where it counts, in some combination of nature/nurture (natural gifts + experience + hard work + decent incentives + character) making important decisions, or as part of institutions which often have to make the hardest decisions, but I tend to look skeptically at the lone architect, the ‘best and brightest’ and skeptically at positions of power (I positively bristle when all are combined).

The lone architect often desires recognition, or at least critique, challenge, and understanding of his work, not necessarily power and/or acolytes, but it can come to that.  The ‘best and brightest’ simply need to step out into the real world and see what endures (there is so much we all know that just ain’t so).  Bright, decent people can easily be ground under and put into service of poorly functioning institutions, for like all of us, they want some regularity, to know their place, a paycheck, a house, kids, respect and a vacation every now and then.  Power still seems to enhance what was already in a man, giving him greater scope, and so should be limited and checked often.

Perhaps it’s a good that some post-Enlightenment rationalists have gotten far enough to say:  ‘I recognize that ‘liberal democracy’ is an ideal and likely ‘pure democratic representation’ as well.  Man is often no good and it’s questionable how much he can be made to use his reason and the American system is falling apart.’

This is more soothing to my ears than ‘man will yet be made better when the ideas I hold and which are clearly universally true are put into practice.’

***Further afield beyond the rationalist/anti-rationalist debate, this blog remains not only skeptical, but proactive against most of those pursuing political activism upon post-Enlightenment political doctrines which advocate radical and revolutionary change.

Feel free to let me know just how much I’ve got wrong.

***Addition: I should add that I don’t necessarily believe ‘man is no good,’ but it’d be nice if more people, in lieu of championing the latest causes, were to admit that after the promises, this is what remains in their pursuit of power and advocacy in the real world.  How the leaders often act, not what they say.

Related On This Site:  Sunstein’s got to create some space between the Bloomberg backlash and the totalitarians on the Left: Daddy’s Gonna Make You Do It

Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand’s Objectivism to Robert Nozick’s ‘night-watchman’ state:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On KantRepost-Youtube Via Libertarianism.Org-David Friedman: ‘The Machinery Of Freedom’…Anarcho-capitalism:  Pro-market, anti-state, anti-war…paleo-libertarian: Link To Lew Rockwell Via A Reader

Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

New liberty away from Hobbes…toward Hayek…but can you see Locke from there?: Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

William Logan At The New Criterion: ‘Pound’s Metro’

Full piece here.

Logan takes a look at one of the most important modern poems:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ezra Pound

Logan:

‘The minor vogue and rapid extinction of Imagism, a movement whose influence we still feel, has been hashed over by literary critics for a century. Its rehearsal here is merely to bring the poem into focus within the slow progress toward the densities of language, the images like copperplate engraving, that made Pound Pound’

Thorough and well done.

The result would echo back to the States years later:

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
firetruck
moving
tense
unheeded
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.
This blog tends to look cautiously at many of the ideas of the Romantic poets, and the break to modernism, but not necessarily the poems themselves.  The echo ripples outwards:

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

Gary Snyder

Once we start arriving at ‘ecological’ appreciations of nature, and the postmodern, confessional altar of Self and the turn inwards to the Self a subject for the art, and the desperate search for meaning, I get more and more turned off, for my own reasons.  Such good poems will carry on.
Any thoughts and comments are welcome.