Repost-From Edge: ‘Dennett On Wieseltier V. Pinker In The New Republic’

About Leon Wieseltier’s reported behavior…

There were some rumors about John Searle a while back…

It’s almost as if men in positions of authority and influence have broader scope for their appetites, and some of these men blur the line, over time, between these appetites and their positions of authority and influence.

Additionally, the vices of an individual can either be independent of, or even the downside risks to, their virtues.

‘yeah, Ralph’s a horrible drunk and cad…but he’s still the top regional salesman three years running.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t do something really terrible.’

Of course, to a lot of people (sensible, decent, men and women), the above is self-evidently true, and it never really goes away.  In a free and open society, there can be no guarantees against encountering it (although there clearly must be some protections against it and means to gain justice once it happens).

One hopes not to be exposed to the tough moral decisions required once it’s pretty clear you or someone you know is the (genuine) victim of such abuse.  Moral courage and mental toughness are clearly called for.

In fact, many people simply fold or look away when confronted with such possible truths, especially people with reasons to stay quiet.

——

***I’d argue we’ve had serious erosion of the more traditional cultural constraints upon such behavior (men more likely to regulate their own and other men’s behavior, with some amount of honor, and arguably more women enforcing this honor system within the old guard).

We also have the rise of new moral constraints, driven primarily by many counter-cultural and anti-establishment movements now pretty firmly established (yes, this is what happens after all the talk of freedom and oppression dies down and the real business of running things occurs…the logic unfolds as it must).

Institutional authority and social trust still seem to be in serious decline, for many, many reasons.  Here are a few more.

As posted:

Daniel Dennet On Wieseltier v Pinker in the New Republic.

There’s a bit of an intellectual turf war going on in the Western world. I suppose it’s been going on for a while. Here are some dated public skirmishes:

-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.’

Got all that?

Why does Wieseltier have his dukes up?

Is the intelligent design debate the right one to have? Whence the humanities?

Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, is debating Roger Scruton in the video below, a conservative British philosopher focusing on aesthetics and the humanities, with a lot of German idealist influence:

Will Marxism & continental philosophy, become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America, as we find much more so in Britain?

Aren’t we already thick in the postmodern weeds?

—————-

Related On This Site: Maybe if you’re defending the current conservative position, you don’t want to bring up the ‘aristocratic radical’ : Repost-Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy..

Art, iconography, art education, culture, feminism as well as 60’s cultural revolution radicalism and deeply Catholic impulses?:Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost-

A return to Straussian neo-classicism?: From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’Harvey Mansfield At Defining Ideas: ‘Democracy Without Politics?’

Neo-neo conservatism, new atheism and post socialism for the ’68ers? Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’,,

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

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

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 HobbesFrom 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

Morality in the emotions? Jesse Prinz argues that neuroscience and the cognitive sciences should move back toward British empiricism and David Hume…yet…with a defense of multiculturalism and Nietzsche thrown in: Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”From Bloggingheads: Tamar Szabo Gendler On Philosophy and Cognitive Science

From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism

Repost-Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

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