Repost-From David Thompson: ‘Postmodernism Unpeeled’

Full interview here.

From Dr. Steven Hicks:

‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.

I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.

So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while’

Related On This Site:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

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.…  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Full review here.

The 1st and last paragraphs of Blackburn’s review:

When the hoary old question of nature versus nurture comes around, sides form quickly. And as Leavis once remarked, whenever this is so, we can suspect that the differences have little to do with thinking. Still, the question certainly obsesses thinkers, and crops up in various terminologies and under various rubrics:  human essence versus historical accident, intrinsic nature versus social construction, nativism versus empiricism. In the ancient world the nativist Plato held that we come into the world equipped with knowledge obtained in a previous life, while the empiricist Aristotle denied it. In our own time Chomsky has revived the nativist doctrine that our capacity for language is innate, and some ultras have even held that our whole conceptual repertoire is innate. We did not ever have to learn anything. We had only to let loose what we already have.

and:

‘Once we get past the demonizing and the rhetoric, take proper notice of the space between overt psychology and evolutionary rationale for it, and lose any phobia of cultural phenomena, what is left? There are plenty of sensible and plausible observations about human beings in Pinker’s book. But it is not clear that any of them are particularly new: Hobbes and Adam Smith give us more than anybody else. And at least their insights have stood the test of time, unlike that of some more recent work. Consider again the example of media violence. Here it seems that psychologists cannot speak with one voice about its effects. But worse than that, much worse, they cannot even speak with one voice about what psychological studies find about its effects. That is, the meta-studies that Pinker cites flatly disagree with the meta-studies that I mentioned earlier. If this is the state of play, we do well to plead the privilege of skepticism. We also do well too not to jettison other cultural resources too quickly. The depressing thing about “The Blank Slate” is that behind the rhetoric and the salesmanship, I suspect that Pinker knows this as well as anyone else.’

Quite readable.

Related On This Site: Does evo psy have aspirations in creating a sort of secular morality…or non-religious moral and philosophical structure?:  Steven Pinker From The New Republic: The Stupidity Of Dignity…Also, what might the cognitive sciences have against transcedental morality?  Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s“Constructive Sentimentalism”

Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’Repost-Steven Weinberg’s Essay ‘On God’ In The NY Times Review Of BooksSimon Blackburn ReviewsAlan Sokal’s ‘Beyond The Hoax’ In The New RepublicRepost-From Virtual Philosophy: A Brief Interview With Simon Blackburn

Clive James At The Prospect On Joseph Conrad-Some Links

James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works.

Of note to this blogger:

‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’

Clive James’ site here.

Michael Dirda on ‘Clive James Last Readings’ review: A Critic’s Final Homage To Literature, Life:’

In 30 brief essays James goes on to tell us — in his most digressive, conversational manner — about the books he’s discovered or returned to quite probably for the last time.’

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Not entirely unrelated:

John Gray begins a discussion of his book ‘The Silence Of Animals‘ with a quote from Conrad:

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Added bonus if you act now in the face of no possible objective knowledge.

Part of Bryan Magee’s series:

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Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic.

Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’.

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy..

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?’

Vladimir Putin Playing The Angles In Syria-U.S. Policy Adrift

From two folks at the Hudson Institute:  More naive, rather dysfunctional peace-idealism shaping American policy on the international stage:

By contrast, in conjunction with his Iranian partners, Putin has moved with alacrity and speed to deploy his forces, fill the vacuum, and shore up Assad—in Latakia, the ancestral homeland of the Assad regime, the latest reports are of up to 2,000 Russian troops on the scene, equipped with advanced fighter jets and anti-aircraft systems.This sets up a major showdown in New York on Monday. In Syria, Putin is altering the facts on the ground. Meanwhile, President Obama envisions a grand diplomatic settlement that results in Assad’s departure.If history is any guide, Obama is about to have his clock cleaned, yet again.’

Very real interests are at stake…and such an approach has relatively higher odds of making less peace and stability.

It seems some liberals, classical liberals, conservatarians, neo-conservatives, conservatives, realists, and a various host of practical policy thinkers are not really content to allow the current President and his team to serve American interests when the results are so dismal.  They likely disagree with him on the question:  What kind of world is this?:

As previously posted:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position:

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’


A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

David Harsanyi On The State Of Political Debate-A Few Additional Thoughts

I think many people not accustomed to the culture wars aren’t accustomed to the tactics of many who participate in them; the blind loyalty to causes and one’s own tribe/team, the naked self-interest, the skulduggery, the shouting, the smear tactics etc.

It can have all the appeal of playing tug-of-war in a muddy field, with lots of name-calling.

To top that off, I’ve been at debates of substance, genuine and profound substance, where I’ve walked away with one set of impressions and ideas (even a clear winner in mind) while friends in my party have walked away with a completely different set of impressions and ideas (good to have dinner or go to a bar afterwards).

Harsanyi on his experiences and the broader claim he makes as a result of them:

When a group confuses its politics with moral doctrine, it may have trouble comprehending how a decent human could disagree with its positions.

Such has been one of the main themes of this blog, really:  I don’t have much evidence that human nature has changed very much lately, and find most people desirous of change usually haven’t thought through many of the consequences of holding the ideas, ideals and ideologies driving the change they seek.

Many such doctrines can pose serious threats to all of our liberties, deeply affecting American social, legal, political and educational institutions. Many such doctrines remain impossibly utopian in spirit, not really scalable to large groups of people, while proving to have had drastic consequences in practice.

Here are a few ideas I keep running across where I live:

History has an endpoint which can be known and reached. Religious dogma and faulty metaphysical doctrines with no modern appeal are just about consigned to the dustbin of history, don’t you know, while secular progress and the ‘good’ society are just around the corner…right after the next change.  Join the community and the modern world.

Human nature itself is shaped only by cultures and the current culture (i.e. ‘they’) is failing to shape human nature properly (i.e. ‘me’ ‘us’ ‘we’ will shape human nature properly once we control the institutions and political process allowing ‘us’ to do so).

Once someone begins to hold the right ideals, acting with enough emotional commitment and loyalty to those ideals, all that remains is some action in the real world (buying a Prius, voting for the ‘right’ people etc.) or better yet, some political activism to start shaping human nature in a virtuous manner.

Enemies are not merely wrong, but can easily become morally suspect and ‘bad,’  as Harsanyi points out.  The modern social sciences can then became cudgels and tools of ostracism and mischaracterization:  ‘You’re a psychopath, a sociopath, you have no heart etc.’

There is knowledge that will somehow allow for the fair and equal control distribution of economic resources through the political economy, laws etc, and all that’s left is for the ‘right’ people to implement that knowledge.

Am I missing any?

Such seem to be the muddy fields of the moment, so let me know what I’ve got wrong.

This blog ain’t a soapbox nor a lectern, much as I seem to act though it is.

Related On This Site:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

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.…  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

In The Mail-Two Blasts From The Recent Past

From a NY Times piece on Jonathan Haidt published in 2011:

‘The fields of psychology, sociology and anthropology have long attracted liberals, but they became more exclusive after the 1960s, according to Dr. Haidt. “The fight for civil rights and against racism became the sacred cause unifying the left throughout American society, and within the academy,” he said, arguing that this shared morality both “binds and blinds.”

“If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community,” he said. “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” It’s easy for social scientists to observe this process in other communities, like the fundamentalist Christians who embrace “intelligent design” while rejecting Darwinism. But academics can be selective, too, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan found in 1965 when he warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks — violating the taboo against criticizing victims of racism.’

Perhaps not too much has changed since 2011, nor 1967, nor….pick your date.  What’s right under your nose is often the hardest to see.  Sigh.

Publication of the 2015 paper here.

Full entry here.

“We must limit determinism …but not eliminate it as Libertarians mistakenly think necessary.”

Thanks to a reader for pointing this out, and I’d be interested in some reactions:

“Most libertarians have been mind/body dualists who, following René Descartes, explained human freedom by a separate mind substance that somehow manages to act in the physical world. Some, especially Immanuel Kant, believed that our freedom only existed in a transcendental or noumenal world, leaving the physical world to be completely deterministic.

Exploring some intellectual foundations…examining other arguments…

Related On This Site: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarSome Sunday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

British conservatism with a fair amount of German idealist influence: Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: ‘Farewell To Judgment’

Via The University Of British Colombia: Kant-Summary Of Essential PointsFrom Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSunday Quotation: From Jonathan Bennett On Kant

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?’

Syria And Our Techno-Bureaucratic Wonder Machine-Three Links

Over a generation ago, there was an alliance of anti-Western interests working in Damascus, Tehran, and Moscow.  Now, it seems, Putin continues to place bombed-out and war-torn barricades between himself and the West, advancing his interests.

And yes, you can trace current U.S. decision-making and its lack in Syria (despite the very difficult choices there) in allowing a good deal of the current chaos.  And no, many people in the media and present U.S. policy circles won’t connect the dots between cherished and not-so-cherished political ideals and the practical consequences to U.S. interests.

It’s always someone else’s fault when peace doesn’t show up for dinner…

Adam Garfinkle finishes with:

‘And so it is, strange as it may sound, that the verve of a “conservative” German Chancellor whose refugee policy, as a colleague has put it, appears to originate from Human Rights Watch, whose energy policy resembles that of the early Greens, whose defense policy seems to derive from the peace movement, and whose social policy (minimum wage) is set by the trade unions, is pretty much all that stands between the Russians and their goals. Her and those five guys in Syria’

The Russians have been doing this for years now.

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Michael Totten notes the same:

‘Syria has been a Russian client state since the 1970s. The reason for its original alliance with Soviet Russia is obvious enough. The Arab Socialist Baath Party was a natural ally of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Syria’s take on secularism and socialism isn’t as severe as Soviet Russia’s, but Syria was ideologically much closer to Russia than to, say, Sweden. That was for damn sure.’

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On the homefront, Megan McArdle notes how managing the ACA-mandated-exchanges has been handled:

‘The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services inspector general has issued a new report on what went wrong with the Obamacare insurance exchanges. Or rather, one thing that went wrong: how the agency mismanaged the contracts so that they experienced significant cost overruns.

You can take this report as a searing indictment of the agency and its contracting personnel. I took something rather different away from reading it:

  1. The architects of the law were incredibly naïve.

  2. Federal contracting rules are crazy.’

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Avik Roy summed it up nicely:

Any serious health reform program—left, right, or center—would involve some disruption of our existing health-coverage arrangements. What makes Obamacare such a deeply flawed piece of work is not that it disrupts our existing arrangements, but that it disrupts those arrangements by forcing people to buy costlier coverage.’

Some people owe others, you see, and it’s not up to you to decide what you owe others in the eyes of this law.  Such things have generally been decided for you and will be worked out by all the best and brightest.