“7. What is meant by enthusiasm. This I take to be properly enthusiasm, which, though founded neither on reason nor divine revelation, but rising from the conceits of a warmed or overweening brain, works yet, where it once gets footing, more powerfully on the persuasions and actions of men than either of those two, or both together: men being most forwardly obedient to the impulses they receive from themselves; and the whole man is sure to act more vigorously where the whole man is carried by a natural motion. For strong conceit, like a new principle, carries all easily with it, when got above common sense, and freed from all restraint of reason and check of reflection, it is heightened into a divine authority, in concurrence with our own temper and inclination.”
Month: September 2016
More Speech, Please, And A Repost-Jonathans Franzen & Haidt: Two Links On Modern Liberalism & You
‘I keep hearing about a supposed “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, or statements such as, “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas.‘
The folks at Charlie Hebdo didn’t find the PEN ‘activists’ much to think about.
Michael Moynihan has been keeping an eye on some people so you don’t have to. The 1st amendment is pretty basic, people.
Even Walter Kirn got in on the action:
Sam Tanenhaus, former editor of the NY Times, took a look at Jonathan Franzen’s then new novel ‘Purity‘ (Tanenhaus is also working on a biography of William F Buckley Jr…).
He touched on Lionel Trilling’s work and his influence on the mid 20th century American novel:
‘Trilling wrote that in 1948, at the dawn of the cold war, and for many years his literary prescription seemed a misfire—the fault, in all likelihood, of his own embroilment in the ideological soul-searching of his generation: the 1930s radicals who were drawn to communism but later discovered the facts of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin. This disillusionment informed Trilling’s own novel about ideological conflict, The Middle of the Journey (1947), a stab toward the new fiction he had in mind. It is sensible and sensitive, but more cultural seminar than work of imagination. The “issues” it dissects—the delusions of fellow travelers, the shallowness of the modern liberal when forced to confront the depth and reach of Soviet crimes, the progressive belief in the future that rested on an almost childlike denial of death—felt bloodless and beside the point at a time when the developing story was no longer the false lure of communism but the blazing forth of the affluent society.’
Worth a read. Drop a line if you’ve read Franzen’s work.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, perhaps that post-WWII corporatist model of big companies and big government tied together, knotted with the help an arguably more religiously traditional cultural fabric (married with kids younger, company men, wives at home) is not coming back, or at least in drastic need of a remodel, according to Walter Russell Mead.
The Cold War is over, though a kleptocratic, ex-KGB run Russian State is causing enough problems right now.
Times have changed.
The 60’s happened, along with the radicalism of the New Left gaining traction in many American universities and arguably a more vigorous individualism and tendency towards social liberalism/libertarianism culture-wide.
On this site, see: Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss
It would seem defenders of religious liberties may no longer have a majority stake in ‘the culture,’ or may at least come to find themselves grateful for constitutionally protected liberties.
Add competitive global labor markets to disturb the remnants of the New Deal and the Big Firm landscape (bad healthcare incentives, underfunded pension liabilities and social programs), along with rapid technological change and there’s a lot going on in American life.
How are such changes being reflected in the novel? Are novelists reflecting your inner life faithfully enough to be worth reading?
Megan McArdle revisited Jonathan Haidt: ‘Liberals Can’t Admit To Thinking Like Conservatives‘
‘I’m an enormous fan of Jonathan Haidt’s work. Nonetheless, I’ve always had two outstanding questions about it (and would note that these are not exactly questions of which Professor Haidt is unaware).’
Check out Larry Arnhart, at Darwinian Conservatism, on Jonathan Haidt:
‘The most revealing comment from the Wall Street Journal interview is his praise for Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions, in which Sowell elaborates Friedrich Hayek’s distinction between the “constrained vision” of the British tradition and the “unconstrained vision” of the French tradition. The constrained or realist vision of human nature is the vision of classical liberalism (Adam Smith) or traditionalist conservatism (Edmund Burke). “Again, as a moral psychologist,” Haidt says, “I had to say the constrained vision is correct.” The evolutionary support for the constrained vision is one of the major themes of my Darwinian Conservatism.’
‘The imprecise terminology of liberalism, conservatism, and libertarianism is also confusing. From my reading of Haidt’s book, he is implicitly embracing a liberal conservatism, or what people like Frank Meyer defended as a fusion of classical liberalism and traditionalist conservatism. (Haidt mentions fusionism briefly in his paper on libertarianism.) Crucial for this fusion is the distinction between state and society. The end for a free state is liberty. The end for a free society is virtue. Political liberty provides the conditions for people to pursue virtue in civil society through the natural and voluntary associations of life. Classical liberals or libertarians rightly emphasize political liberty. Traditionalist conservatives rightly emphasize social virtue. Political liberty provides the liberal tolerance by which people are free to pursue their moral visions within whatever moral community they join, as long as they do not violate the equal liberty of all others to live their moral lives as they choose.‘
‘This is, I think, implicit in Haidt’s book, but he never makes it explicit, because he never clearly makes the crucial distinction between state and society, political liberty and social virtue.’
From a reader: ‘The Rationalist Delusion In Politics:’
Communist corner: I remember reading a piece at the NY Times about Trotsky’s great-grandaughter, the neuroscientist Nora Volkow:
‘Dr. Volkow generally forswears any interest in politics per se, but midway through a long day of meetings last month she sighed and acknowledged, “science and politics are intertwined.” We think we have free will, she continued, but we are foiled at every turn. First our biology conspires against us with brains that are hard-wired to increase pleasure and decrease pain. Meanwhile, we are so gregarious that social systems — whether you call them peer pressure or politics — reliably dwarf us as individuals. “There is no way you can escape.”
As for a critique of Albany Plaza, another modernist/bureaucratic concrete wonderland, here’s Robert Hughes:
As for the 60’s, how about Pete Seeger’s lifelong Communism?:
‘Seeger never really did abandon the dream of communism, despite the inconvenient fact that it had long since (starting around 1918) transformed into a pitiful nightmare. So it was unsurprising that in 1995 he would provide an effusive blurb for a book of poetry written by Tomas Borge, the brutal secret police chief and interior minister of Sandinista Nicaragua (“An extraordinary collection of poems and prose”).’
See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times
Related On This Site: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under ObamaFrom 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’
Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Good Inequality’
For what it’s worth, in my travels, I often find people who believe ‘inequality’ to be a social or moral harm, to also find ‘equality’ to be a social and moral good, and I’m curious as to how they arrived at such a position.
What does ‘equality’ mean, exactly?
In my experience, people can be wildly unequal in terms of physical and mental abilities, innate capacities and learned skills, life experiences, love and relationship goals, drive and ambition, and of course, pure luck.
We’ve all had some good times, some hard times, some things we’ve fought hard for, sacrificed for, and made a central part of our lives.
Am I gonna make it? How can I be better to someone I love? Is what I’m doing with my time worthwhile?
I generally agree with equality under the law as far as the equality of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ goes, but once I start to hear ‘equality’ as an abstract list of ‘rights’, human and otherwise, I find myself occupying a position of skepticism and doubt.
How much equality is enough, exactly?
‘Over 11 percent of Americans will be among the top 1 percent of income-earners (people making a minimum of $332,000 per year) for at least one year in their lives. 94 percent of the Americans who join the top 1 percent group will keep that status for only one year.’
It seems to me that economic mobility and opportunity is one of the greatest strengths and cherished inheritances we share as Americans.
We don’t have to build around the ruins of monarchy, aristocracy, feudal landownership and fixed classes as found in most of Old Europe. Our founders set us on a glide-path out of such constraints, with a lot of foresight and wisdom.
‘Moreover, the factors that explain higher household incomes among Americans are not fixed over a lifetime, and they are to some degree a matter of personal decisions, which means that people are not forced to remain in one income bracket for their whole lives. American households with higher than average incomes tend to be households where the members are well-educated, in their prime earning years (between the ages of 35 and 64), working full-time, and are in stable marriages. Households with lower than average incomes tend to be households where the members are less-educated, outside their prime earning years, unemployed or working only part-time, and they are likely to be unmarried.’
Piketty And Hitchens-Some Saturday Links
Larry Summers via the Democracy Journal has an easily-accessible review of Piketty’s ‘Capital In The Twenty-First Century‘, called ‘The Inequality Puzzle.’
Among other interesting thoughts, there’s this:
‘…there is the basic truth that technology and globalization give greater scope to those with extraordinary entrepreneurial ability, luck, or managerial skill. Think about the contrast between George Eastman, who pioneered fundamental innovations in photography, and Steve Jobs. Jobs had an immediate global market, and the immediate capacity to implement his innovations at very low cost, so he was able to capture a far larger share of their value than Eastman. Correspondingly, while Eastman’s innovations and their dissemination through the Eastman Kodak Co. provided a foundation for a prosperous middle class in Rochester for generations, no comparable impact has been created by Jobs’s innovations’
Addition: Richard Epstein-Piketty’s Rickety Economics.
Martin Feldstein at the WSJ (behind a paywall)-Piketty’s Numbers Don’t Add Up.
Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?…Why Do People Move To Cities? From Falkenblog: ‘The Perennial Urban Allure’
Technotopia And Politics-Jonah Goldberg At The National Review Online: ‘Minimum Wage And The Rise Of The Machines’
Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar Man…From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’
Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Piketty’s Tax Hikes Won’t Help The Middle-Class’…David Harsanyi: ‘What Thomas Piketty’s Popularity Tells Us About The Liberal Press?’
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. Technology is changing things rapidly, and maybe, as Charles Murray points out, it’s skewing the field toward high IQ positions while simultaneously getting rid of industrial, managerial, clerical, labor intensive office jobs. Even so, we can’t cling to the past. This is quite a progressive vision but one that embraces change boldly. Repost-Via Youtube: Conversations With History – Walter Russell Mead
The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’
Via Reuters-‘Jordan Writer In Anti-Islam Case Shot Dead At Court’
Those people with whom you disagree, do you kill them?
‘A prominent Jordanian writer was shot dead Sunday on the steps of a court where he was facing charges for sharing an anti-Islam cartoon on Facebook.
Nahed Hattar was struck by three bullets before the alleged assassin was arrested at the scene of the shooting in Amman’s central Abdali district, said the official Petra news agency.’
‘Hattar was a political commentator known for his antipathy towards Islamists including Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood and also his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.’
Back to Yale with Christopher Hitchens:
Old news I know, but it seems that the Yale Press was genuinely afraid that publishing this book could potentially lead to violence, and that they are responsible for the consequences of such potential violence.
“…Yale had consulted a range of experts before making its decision and that “[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.”
If you thought the cartoons were bad, more on the Fitna movie here. From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West” Libertarians love this issue: Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant
An Act Of ‘Commercial Violence?’-They’re Still Trying To Kill Lars Vilks
In The Mail-More On The Boston Marathon Bombers: ‘The Fall Of The House Of Tsarnaev’
Ira Stoll At The NY Sun: ‘Will Trump Target The Times The Way Hulk Hogan Wrestled With Gawker.Com?’
‘The Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, is taking aim at the nation’s largest and most powerful left-of-center newspaper, the New York Times, in an attack that may expose how the newspaper is being propped up financially by a Mexican billionaire.’
Interesting times. Lots of food fights.
As previously posted: Who reads the newspapers?
As for my own conspiratorial suspicions, I expect an influential cohort, if not an editorial majority of the NY Times, to soon resemble that of Britain’s ‘Guardian‘ (that’s Vanguardian to you, you neoliberal bourgeois sell-out).
Here is a Guardian headline tumblr page to help clarify: So.Much.Guardian.
Jezebellians writing about the NY Times have discovered a plot:
Do I make any predictions?
Predictions require knowledge I don’t actually have and committing to a standard to which I could actually be held.
I simply brace myself for these things ahead of time, and invite you into a confederacy of predictive anticipation, dear reader.
Related On This Site:Nir Journalism-Via Reason-‘NY Times Public Editor Acknowledges Errors in Nail Salon Expose In Response to Reason’s Reporting’
Michael Kinsley At The New Republic Via Althouse: ‘A Q & A With Jill Abramson’
From Slate: “Newsweek Has Fallen And Can’t Get Up”
A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’
You could do like Matt Drudge, but the odds are stacked against you.
Ah, But Pigeons Can Shit On The Shoulders Of Statues-Gay Talese on Journalism
Syria And Russia, Michael Totten On Cuba-Some Links
-Rick Francona at Middle East Perspectives: ‘American-Russian Cooperation-What Could Go Wrong?‘
‘In that case, Russia and Iran will have achieved their foreign policy objective, that being the survival of the Ba’ath regime of Bashar al-Asad; we will have failed in ours.
That’s what can go wrong.’
-Lilia Shevtskova at the American Interest ‘The Kremlin’s Triad As The Means Of Survival‘
‘Let me reiterate: We are dealing with the logic of a particular civilization—one whose survival resources are dwindling and whose political class is powerless to transform the system—that will continue to reenergize itself through the enemy search (even as it cooperates with this enemy).’
-Michael Totten ‘Cuba’s Walled Garden:’
‘Cuban citizens, of course, yearn for the Czech model where communism collapsed in spectacular fashion and was replaced all at once with political liberalism and a market economy. It’s what those of us in the free world should hope to see down there, too.
If you want to visit Cuba before it changes, fine. Go. I did. It’s interesting. Just understand that change is a good thing, and the more change the better. Doubt it? Ask yourself if anyone but a political psychopath thinks abolishing communism destroyed Prague.’
As previously posted: Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’
Gloria Estefan offers a window into Cuban culture, music, honor, and immigration as it mixes with American culture.
Some light humor:
Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.
Christopher Hitchens took a helicopter ride with Sean Penn, and that tracksuit-wearing strongman of the people, Hugo Chavez-Hugo Boss:
It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.
The true time-warp and bizzaro-land is likely still North Korea, however:
Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’
A video supplement to a course taught on the classical liberal tradition (~28.00 minutes long):
Note those liberal thinkers who do not posit a telos (knowable endpoint and purpose) to human affairs and how they arrive at their positions…
Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…
A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”
Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes…From Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘…Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department
From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’
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…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’
Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo Strauss…From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’
Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?: From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …
…Peter Singer discusses Hegel and Marx…From Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’
Repost-‘From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work’
It’s likely you won’t agree with all of Huntington’s ideas, but he maintained a deeply learned understanding of the animating ideas behind Western/American political organization with keen observation of what was happening on the ground in foreign countries. Here’s a brief summation from Robert Kaplan’s article:
“• The fact that the world is modernizing does not mean that it is Westernizing. The impact of urbanization and mass communications, coupled with poverty and ethnic divisions, will not lead to peoples’ everywhere thinking as we do.
• Asia, despite its ups and downs, is expanding militarily and economically. Islam is exploding demographically. The West may be declining in relative influence.
• Culture-consciousness is getting stronger, not weaker, and states or peoples may band together because of cultural similarities rather than because of ideological ones, as in the past.
• The Western belief that parliamentary democracy and free markets are suitable for everyone will bring the West into conflict with civilizations—notably, Islam and the Chinese—that think differently.
• In a multi-polar world based loosely on civilizations rather than on ideologies, Americans must reaffirm their Western identity.”
See Also: Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?: The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘ (previews)available.
Huntington’s page at Harvard here. Reihan Salam has a short piece here.
Also On This Site: Francis Fukuyama, a neconservative up until the Iraq War or so, student of Huntington’s, and author off The End Of History, has a view that modernization and Westernization are more closely united. Yet Fukuyama envisions a Western State which has an endpoint that the minds of men might be able to know. This breaks with Karl Marx’s end point of Communism rising from the ashes of capitalism, is more Hegelian via Alexander Kojeve in Paris, and advocates for a State that ought to be bigger than it is now in the U.S. This requires a more moral bureaucratic class to lead us here at home and perhaps an almost one worlder-ish type Super-Government for all. Can you see limited government, life, liberty and property from here?: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work…From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…From Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?: Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy
Some Links-A Response To Chomsky’s Universal Grammar, Getting Inked, And Ideas About Obama’s Legacy
Paul Ibbotson & Michael Tomasello at Scientific American: ‘Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory Of Language Learning:’
‘But evidence has overtaken Chomsky’s theory, which has been inching toward a slow death for years. It is dying so slowly because, as physicist Max Planck once noted, older scholars tend to hang on to the old ways: “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”
Worth a read.
As posted: Caitlin Flanagan reviews Tom Wolfe’s new book ‘The Kingdom Of Speech.‘ Jerry Coyne, ecologist, writing in the Washington Post, was not impressed:
“Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”
Theodore Dalrymple takes a reactionary position to tattoos in ‘Exposing Shallowness.‘
‘What is striking about these “tattoo narratives” (as the author calls them) is their vacuous egoism. The interlocutors speak, and appear to think, in pure psychobabble, that debased and vague confessional language that allows people to imagine they are baring their souls when in fact they are exposing their shallowness’
My Curmudgeonly Tattoo Theory– It used to be like carving a lover’s name into a tree (go ahead you anti-photosynthesist), except on your arm. Or maybe you were in prison or hanging in a gang. Maybe you were in the armed services and went through some stuff together and made it out the other side.
Now, the ‘transgressive’ and forbidden aspect of tattoos has become quite predictable: Go ahead, Mom!
Of course, your face, your body, your eyes will all announce what you’ve been up to lately and where you’ve been…to some extent.
In a similar vein, Ross Douthat argued that even though organized religion is on the decline, people still need all the stuff it can provide, they just find it elsewhere.
People can come to believe in secular ideals as though they provided transcendent purpose (addition: or at least imbue those ideals with a faith people reserve for that which is presumed universally true):
‘…what is the idea of universal human rights if not a metaphysical principle? Can you find universal human rights under a microscope?‘
An 11:00 video on what may remain of Obama’s legacy via The Future Of Capitalism, from a generally Right-Of-Center perspective.
A 9/11 Link
It’s nearly too politicized these days…
For those who didn’t make it through, and those who did, and those who have worked every day to make it better…
Here’s a video of the memorial at night, from a few years ago. You can look into those holes, the water flowing down and away. You can also be with everyone else for a moment, looking at the beauty around you; the bustling city.
Addition: At the NY Observer, a firsthand account from the 77th floor of the 2nd tower.