‘Therein lies the central tension of Speak, Memory. Its prose is meticulous, suggesting memory as an exercise in exacting dictation from an omniscient oracle, yet its message points to memory as mutable, prone to the passage of time and the vagaries of imagination’
“Nabokov in America” is rewarding on all counts, as biography, as photo album (there are many pictures of people, Western landscapes and motels) and as appreciative criticism. Not least, Roper even avoids the arch style so often adopted by critics faintly trying to emulate their inimitable subject.’
What’s more American than an exiled member of the Russian aristocracy intimately making his way into the English language and peering out from a thousand Motor Lodges?
A little bit about politics and also the politics amidst fellow writers and critics:
‘…when in doubt, I always follow the simple method of choosing that line of conduct which may be the most displeasing to the Reds and the Russells.’
‘Who’s in, who’s out, and where are the snows of yesteryear. All very amusing. I am a little sorry to be left out. Nobody can decide if I am a middle-aged American writer or an old Russian writer—or an ageless international freak.’
On his professional collection of butterflies:
‘The pleasures and rewards of literary inspiration are nothing beside the rapture of discovering a new organ under the microscope or an undescribed species on a mountainside in Iran or Peru. It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all.’
Via Youtube: An interviewer, Nabokov and Lionel Trilling discuss ‘Lolita:’
I suppose we’ll see what the French body politic decides to prioritize in conserving and changing:
‘Emmanuel Macron is running for his second term of five years. He is a political centrist. Five years ago, he won easily in a runoff against the far right Marine Le Pen. Until recently, it was assumed that Macron in this election would repeat that easy victory over Le Pen.‘
‘Funny word, “tribe”. Karl Popper used it a lot but you don’t hear it much today.
‘As Popper told the historical story, in the 5th and 6th centuries BC the tribal world of the old-time Greeks was breaking down. Everywhere there was change and decay—or change that looked like decay. And it is the anxiety and distress felt by men and women in this situation that leads them to try and freeze all change and return to the tribal past. He thought Plato’s thinking exemplified this.‘
Horses I pleasurably beat: It’d have been nice if the old liberal guard within our universities had said something like ‘no‘ to many of the radicals roiling in front of them. ‘You are still required to read The Canterbury Tales by the 25th.’ ‘Also, you have to let other people think and speak.‘
This old nag: Many a rationalist, secular humanist, and liberal idealist likely believes that while activists get carried away, the cause is mostly just. Religion is still poisoning everything, and the new fields of knowledge can bear the weight of humanity’s ignorance, suffering and hope. Math + data + new social science research + applied policy + conventional wisdom through the academy and media = sufficient moral orthodoxy. The moral force of change against injustice can be directed into a liberal order all individuals can get behind (and not be ground under).
The Appaloosa is a proud breed. I’m skeptical of the view that marginalized people, the meekest and poorest among us, are generally served by the kind of inverse religious logic a radical Marxist employs, even as the Marxist goes too far. The prediction I hear from the liberal mainstream is this: Such malcontents can be kept below deck. (S)elf still comes first, but (S)elfhood will require allegiance to the old/new institutions as long as these are run by the right people with the right moral lights. In the control room, where the sea spreads before the best and brightest, (H)istory is capable of producing the right men to steer the Ship of State.
It’s odd to have those who conserve finding themselves out of conservation, wishing for the roiling and disruption of existing institutions, still while being called ‘Hitler.’
Populism is all around, and for good reasons.
More like a draft horse: The pipers calling are human nature, truth and reality. Can you hear the tune?
Many radical discontents exhibit the chaotic minds, troubled souls and controlling tendencies of the all-too-familiar religious zealot (always there amongst the pews). We still live in a world of limited resources and hard choices where life ain’t fair. Politics calls forth a few 1st-rate men but a majority of ambitious 2nd and 3rd raters who think they’re 1st-rate (a surprising number of scoundrels).
In lieu of an older, more religious American idealism, a new moral and moralizing force forms in the gaps, where old money gets co-opted by new zealots. A lot of change, very quickly, compels towards new rules and new authority.
This is coming from Left and Right, and the newer Lefts and newer Rights.
I guess I don’t trust any one man, (this is why we have our Constitutional constraints and separation of powers).
We’ll see about if my hope for better speech rules have been misplaced…
The previous two cents and two cents more gets you close to a nickel: Twitter as a platform is what it is (especially good at brief bursts of condensed information, data gathering, and disasters). It’s the kind of internal, open chat platform within a company, scaled more broadly. All you need is a device, free software to download, and voila, you’ve become a node on a vast network. This has advantages.
Communication, however, is obviously a pathetic prosthetic for human contact and real conversation. I suspect the people curating Twitter of playing a dumb, dumb game by favoring their favored biases (like all of us, to some extent) instead of just letting speech flourish.
Our authors may be following Charles Murray’s lead, which he outlined in ‘Coming Apart:’
‘In fact, a key part of the explanation for the struggles of today’s working and lower middle classes in the U.S. is delayed marriage. When the trend toward later marriage first took off in the 1970s, most of these young men and women delayed having children, much as they had in the past. But by 2000, there was a cultural shift. They still put off their weddings, but their childbearing—not so much. Fifty-eight percent of first births among this group are now to unmarried women.’
Many women in college and in the professions are delaying marriage and child-bearing. They can generally afford to put off marriage in pursuit of education and career (though they can’t wait too long and many are accruing tremendous student-loan debt). The women without such opportunities and who aren’t in college or the professions, generally aren’t putting off having children for too long on the analysis above, but they are putting off marriage.
This can have consequences for all of us.
One of the things we’re potentially doing: Creating a two-tiered society, one of low-skilled, lower educated folks whom we perhaps ought to encourage into marriage, and the other full of higher skilled, better educated folks who will probably get married anyways, after putting career first.
Of course, implicit in the above quotation is the idea that conservatives are already losing the debate: The coveted sweet spot in the middle and upper-middle class mind in America, which tends to guide our social institutions, laws, and politics is not currently well occupied by particularly religious, nor traditional, nor conservative ideas.
For better or for worse. Til’ death do us part.
The newer social model (often driven by radical discontents) hasn’t addressed many problems that the old social model may have addressed. On Murray’s view, perhaps we’re in danger of losing much in the way of economic dynamism as a result (to which I’ve found very few women in my time who wish to go back to 1963, which Murray doesn’t suggest we do, and relatively fewer women willing to call themselves feminists or address the radicalism inherent in feminism head-on).
Our authors continue:
‘But to truly move forward, educators, employers, policy makers, parents, entertainment leaders and young adults themselves need to join together in launching a national conversation about bringing down the childbearing rate of unmarried women and men in their 20s. Such campaigns aren’t just talk. They worked for dealing with teen pregnancy, and they can work again.’
The ending comes off a little weak.
Here’s Murray discussing Coming Apart:
***Having been asked to watch a few clips of the then-popular HBO series ‘Girls, I suspected the show could be seen as a product of the post 60’s, literary, post-post-modern beat/hippie/hipster culture that comes with a pedigree. There is a deeper current of Western individualism (Romanticism, Modernism, Postmodernism) running through Western culture. First, perhaps, Mary Shelley, then the Bloomsbury group, then Oberlin political radicalism and eventually…Girls.
Maybe. Maybe not. That’s probably a stretch.
Admittedly, this helps keep many chatterers chattering away who see their own selves and causes (feminism especially) reflected therein. I can’t say I care that much for the subject matter, though I will generally support artists who stay true to their art, as religion, polite society, politics and ideologues of all sorts should be transcended if that art is going to last.
According to the Atlantic: Why are 58% of first-births to unmarried women in lower middle class households? Of course, it might have a lot to do with taking marriage apart, and replacing it with…whatever’s here now. Naturally, being politically liberal the focus at the Atlantic on making more income equality.
My current predictions: The modern quest for the socially constructed, feelings first (S)elf, oppressed by (F)orces, is going to feed into identitarian and collectivist political movements. These movements will continue to place upward pressure on the married, stable and ambitious folks who find themselves as gatekeepers in many important institutions. As it already has, this will lead to a lot of talk about ‘society’ and the ‘latest moral cause’. Sometimes this discussion will appeal to parents and children (and maybe most families), but often it will have to appeal to the anti-family, anti-Nation, anti-oppressor base (usually radicals who won’t allow anyone to speak of the importance of family and personal responsibility).
For the poorest and those with the fewest options, fewer signals will point towards family, home, tradition and honor (duties to other people which freedom requires). Many more signals will point towards ‘community,’ State, do-whatever-you-want-until-you-can’t and a kind of rationalistic utopian political ideal (we make the rules and then you get your freedom within the collective).
Full article here. (Originally posted over a dozen years ago now, and I suspect more people are paying attention to the problems raised).
The basic idea: Many young and young(ish) American men are free of the social obligations to commit to women, get married, have kids, and thus languish in a suspended state of man-childishness.
How did they get here? By the radical and excessive cultural changes the last 40 years have brought about: I’m assuming the excesses of feminism, the excesses of equality, which form a solid part of majority pop culture opinion and have often been institutionalized.
“Young men especially need a culture that can help them define worthy aspirations. Adults don’t emerge. They’re made.”
Hymowitz is arguing that the culture is failing young men in an important way, and it’s doing so by abandoning certain cultural values and the depth and wisdom those values sustain.
Man-children? A war against men? The products of feminism? An erosion of religious values?:
‘The thrust of Manning Up is different. In her new book, Hymowitz puts economic conditions first — along with the increasing professional accomplishments of women. Preadulthood, she says, is “an adjustment to huge shifts in the economy, one that makes a college education essential to achieving or maintaining a middle-class life.”
That’s preadulthood for men:
‘Preadulthood — most common among men in their twenties, though it can easily extend to one’s thirties and beyond — is a consequence of two related economic trends that are reshaping the coming-of-age experience for young Americans, both men and women. The first trend is the extended period of training — college and beyond — deemed necessary to succeed in the modern economy. The second trend is women’s participation and flourishing in the new economy.’
There have been many changes going on in American society, which include getting women into the workforce and into college. I suspect this has partially required the erosion of traditional and religious familial hierarchies and the institutions growing out of them as a model for civil society.
There’s also the ideological radicalism and excesses of a lot of feminist doctrine, and many emerging new rules of behavior between the sexes, often enforced ad hoc, which further erode authority and claims to authority.
Naturally, social and religious conservatives are less happy with this state of affairs, and there is legitimate criticism that the State will fill the role the family they once held as a model for civil society, especially among lower income folks.
Obviously, we’re not going back to 1962, but men are not just born, they’re made, and now that the culture and institutions that made them is receding, what is taking their place?
Some will see these developments as a steps towards a better world, others as clear steps towards a worse one. I’m just trying to step back for a moment.
Jordan Peterson is pushing back against claims of equality of outcome. Freedom, responsibility and moral behavior are not tied directly back to the Bible, but through an attention to psychological/social science research data and schools of thought which have emerged and developed during the last one hundred and fifty years. This, including his own experience as a clinical psychologist.
He’s still persona non-grata amongst many commited to gender equality and group identity:
Via a reader: Heather Heying, evolutionary biologist, and wife of Bret Weinstein, offers reasonable insight.
The sexes obviously can work together collaboratively, but I’m guessing neither a vast majority of women, nor some plurality of men, desire a return to previous traditional and religiously conservative sex roles, especially in the workplace.
After hollowing out much of what came before, some folks make everything rationalistic (rational man) and commodified (technology and the market). But notice liberation is not freedom, nor responsibility. In the hole created, there often just floods in identity politics, the ‘-Isms’, and more space for collectivist and socialistic (State) solutions. Did folks tell you the price of progress, and living in a ‘modern’ society.
Maybe it’s Pilgrim’s pride, or perhaps the Puritan pursuit of image-less purity, or the Colonialists ecumenical style, or maybe even some Shaker weirdness that finds itself up for analysis.
Perhaps somewhere there’s a spare, Yankee work ethic resting on a simple, wooden shelf in the ‘American mind.’
Could such a thing be discovered within mid 20th-century modernism?
Robert Hughes takes a look at Donald Judd’s ‘Temple Of Aesthetic Fanaticism,’ and Richard Serra’s nod to Jackson Pollack and abstract expressionism in the rawness of material sculpture. You know, making stuff (a potentially sensitive subject with so many technological changes going on right now).
(link may not last):
As for Land Art, Michael Heizer’s life’s-work land-art project is apparently complete, if such a thing can be complete:
Apparently, Heizer’s been working since 1972 on this sculpture in the Eastern Nevada desert, which was originally called ‘Complex One.’ It’s morphed into his life’s work, called City. It’s very large. It can’t be moved. You can’t reproduce it. It represents a break from traditional sculpture. It can’t be put in a museum and it’s not clear that it has a function.
In Brasil, they just started from the top-down and built a city that doesn’t work that well for people: Brasilia: A Planned City
I have to confess that seeing that structure upon the wide open emptiness of Eastern Nevada is comforting for the familiarity it brings. It’s a little bit of order upon the unknown, and the design, or lack thereof (about which a man may wonder), within Nature herself. I think this is why a military installation out in the desert can captivate the imagination as it’s been known to in Hollywood and in the public mind (dreaming of aliens and conspiracies).
To expand on that theme, Wallace Stevens might shed some light. He was an American poet on the hinge between romanticism and modernism:
Anecdote of the Jar
I placed a jar in Tennessee, And round it was, upon a hill. It made the slovenly wilderness Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it, And sprawled around, no longer wild. The jar was round upon the ground And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion every where. The jar was gray and bare. It did not give of bird or bush, Like nothing else in Tennessee.
What do you do with an uncivilized, wild land? Import European learning and literature “atop” it? Christian tradition and the Natural Law? Import the triumph of the Western mathematical sciences and technology? Import its movements of the arts and the individual artist?
It can be pretty interesting and make for good content.
The individual travels alone or with small groups (usually with a camera), trespassing through city-scapes and abandoned buildings as though they were archeological ruins. Breaking the law or possibly breaking the law is part of the appeal.
Perhaps such folks are traveling as well through their own imaginations, romanticizing themselves as transgressive outsiders; inviting viewers on a mythic, imaginative quest, where some camaraderie, historical meaning and beauty are to be found.
It certainly comes with the risk and rewards newer platforms can offer.
Maybe they could just be figuring out how things work and how infrastructure is built, too. And where the margins are.
Naturally, one impulse expressed here is the desire for group membership and meaning. Like kids who’ve found something new and cool to do, some recognition is desired from others or from society at large, even if it’s tinged with the negative.
Along with many other genres (documentaries are a glaring example), I tend to believe that if a group gathers behind a cause (ideological/political) and seeks to confirm a pre-existing belief, this doesn’t necessarily mean everyone gets along, nor is persuaded, nor agrees on matters of deeper principle.
It can lead to fracture, art and politics mixing in unholy union, and a public square where moralizing abounds (Dear Reader, have you heard about ‘The Message‘).
Readers will know I tend to think some of this is a sign of a newer, more anarchic/nihilistic individualism manifesting within our culture. The failures of many older relationships and institutional arrangements have created a lot of space.
Welcome to it.
Don’t you want to live in Austin, or Boulder, or Portland, or Williamsburg, Brooklyn?
Don’t you want to live and compete with the best in an outward facing American city like San Francisco or New York, or maybe even an international city if you can manage it?
What about the downsides (political leadership/corruption/crime/high and low)?
Don’t you want to live in Salt Lake City, or some small town with a church and organized civic life? Don’t you just want order, relative peace, obligations and decency?
As to what’s going on at Georgetown law and Ilya Shapiro, we’ve seen this before, at Yale, at Williams, at Evergreen State….the pattern ought to be pretty clear by now. Aside from money, social media platforms, waning influence and administrative rot, it’d be nice to have some backbone on speech.
As FIRE co-founder Alan Charles Kors has said: “You cannot say to people, you’re too weak to live with freedom. Only that group is strong enough to live with freedom.”
But that’s exactly what Adam Falk, the patronizing president of Williams College, has said to the college’s student body. Yesterday, Falk unilaterally canceled a speech by John Derbyshire, who was invited as part of the student-run “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series.
‘Today I am taking the extraordinary step of canceling a speech by John Derbyshire, who was to have presented his views here on Monday night. The college didn’t invite Derbyshire, but I have made it clear to the students who did that the college will not provide a platform for him.
Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard. The college has a very long history of encouraging the expression of a range of viewpoints and giving voice to widely differing opinions. We have said we wouldn’t cancel speakers or prevent the expression of views except in the most extreme circumstances. In other words: There’s a line somewhere, but in our history of hosting events and speeches of all kinds, we hadn’t yet found it.
We’ve found the line. Derbyshire, in my opinion, is on the other side of it. Many of his expressions clearly constitute hate speech, and we will not promote such speech on this campus or in our community.
We respect—and expect—our students’ exploration of ideas, including ones that are very challenging, and we encourage individual choice and decision-making by students. But at times it’s our role as educators and administrators to step in and make decisions that are in the best interest of students and our community. This is one of those times.’
You know, if the explanatory power of your evolutionary biology model is predictive, it missed a pretty important prediction. There’s always a ‘new’ society to emerge, but hey, speech is speech and courage is courage. I stand with both.
Affixing one’s moral compass, sentiments and institutional commitments upon the axis of change, rather than conservation, is one way to end up in an equity canoe headed over a revolutionary waterfall.
As to extrication of the pursuit of scientific knowledge and truth, free thought and speech, and the defense of healthy empiricism, it will take a few generations. The social constructivist model has made a lot of headway (Self feelings are important to discourses of meaning and historical oppression within a landscape of the Self and no meaning…).
As previously and often posted:
“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’
‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘
‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘
And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”
For many Westerners, perhaps there is no longer a God revealing Himself to Man, but there are expanding fields of knowledge and human endeavors able to light the way forwards onto a future of hope and progress; backwards onto human origins.
In the popular media (such as in the publications displaying the photo above), perhaps this knowledge can align with current popular sentiment and belief. An imprimatur, of sorts.
Such thinking can also coincide with a rather Romantic Idealization of Nature; a vision of Man without dominion over Nature, necessarily, but rather men, women, children and an ever growing list of humans (and animals, even) living both frustratingly apart, but also interconnected within Nature, following Nature’s lead alone and with each other.
Most people, I suspect, often without such specialized knowledge (not specifically trained in the sciences), require a lot of moral oughts and shoulds regarding how to live and what to do.
Furthermore, people tend to organize into groups united by shared principles and beliefs, and so often, in the modern world, beneath political ideals and political ideologies. Even if these political ideals and ideologies aren’t explict moral philosophies, necessarily, they can certainly end-up engaging the moral sentiments, basic human desires and motivations of the people within them.
Such movements are certainly understood by many of their members as posessing truth and knowledge enough to write the laws and rules we all must follow, prescribing our own personal moral behavior enough to align us with the people who ought to be in charge of us.
Perhaps the poet or Romantic genius can help guide Man into the Self and the Self into Nature. The poet/thinker’s example can be full of grief, anguish and Nature’s brutality, indeed, but it can also offer moments of self-actualization, beauty, consolation and transcendence. It can be taught as part of a civilizing hierarchy or canon, a reef of traditions and structure enough to develop seriously good artists and produce quite a few educated citizens.
I suspect there’s always been a tension between the poet/artist and the Man of Science and Mathematics; people generally more concerned in seeking the underlying order and patterns within Nature, discovering the probabilistic and mathematical laws able to accurately describe and predict the strange world in which we seem to find ourselves. Such laws can be beautiful, and symmetrical, and true just for their own sake, sure, but like a good poem, a mathematical law remains curiously silent about how to live and what to do.
Addition: Perhaps, I might add, but perhaps not. Perhaps it’s worth thinking about just which dangers accompany such lights, and which problems endure.
‘The claim that “open societies” are now increasingly threatened would probably meet with little argument. But what is the nature of the threat, and what are its roots? Here less agreement might be found. Some would say an essentially religious clash of civilizations is the main cause, and point to the growing struggle between Islam and the West.
Others might point to Russia under President Putin, finding evidence of a long-standing political tradition that owes relatively little to the Russian Orthodox Church, but has always found liberty odious.
And then there’s a third and troubling possibility — that from an evolutionary perspective, taking a long view of our historic and prehistoric origins, open societies where voluntaristic principles prevail are new forms of human association only recently arrived from the distant tribal past, and in the more violent trouble spots around the world they never arrived at all.’
The late Ken Minogue:
On the many dangers of political idealism, and using political theory as the limits of your field of vision:
‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial. Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony. In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral idea.’
-Minogue, Kenneth. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).
“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”
Roger Sandall, Australian critic of romantic primitivism and the Western’s Left’s penchant for the Noble Savage: His home page where his essays can be found. Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues“ and…
Robert Hughes, Australian and often fierce critic of modernism and post-modernism.
Media sources these days find it hard to manage the logic of identity groups all getting their day in the sun AND getting splendidly along. The ‘old-ruleset-is-full-of-closed-minded-natives‘ vs the ‘new-ruleset-is-full-of tolerant-idealists-managing-happy-people‘ code is still running.
Please just give me the facts. You don’t need to mediate my common sense and decide what I ought to think.
You probably kinda already suspected a lot of people aren’t independent, nor abstract thinkers (a lot of us, much of the time). You probably know there are a lot of pretty faces and slick operators in the world (smart and ambitious people, not so much wise and decent people). Look at some of your own behavior, honestly, for confirmation of this.
In the meantime, I don’t consider it a good to not tell basic truths when it comes who/what/when/where/why. I suppose we’ll see how much new technology and the market corrects for the ideological underpinnings creating such incentives:
This blog has not gone often wrong in planning for eventual activist erosion beneath the liberal platform (such is human nature). See most academies, orgs, many Federal Bureaucracies, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, NPR etc. Co-ops tend to get co-opted. This process is about as reliable as expecting loud, true-believing and crazy/brilliant voices to pipe-up in the back of the church.
Please choose one: Human-nature skepticism, some knowledge of history, the humanities, Heraclitus, the tragic view of life, (E)ntropy, God etc. can all help explain why we’re always up against some element of the natural world or the worse parts of human nature.
Now that I think about it, I haven’t had to make too many serious course corrections in anticipating the depth and potency of the postmodern problems, nor the totalitarian/authoritarian impulses and true belief so often beneath the surface.
If you’re still with me, allow me to a point to a deeper map: Beyond political party and loyalty and the modern maps, lies an ancient one. Within this map is the idea that freedom eventually becomes the highest good in a democracy. Such freedom and rule by the demos is extended to all areas of life (old flattering the young, the differences between men and women erased, the former slaves freed etc.). This makes the demos ever more sensitive to any authority, so much so that popular sentiment becomes antithetical to even reasonable authority. Out of this situation arises a man who is this worst master of his passions. Now, I don’t need you to suddenly align this map with your current political lights (it’s Trump! it’s Biden!). Please be quiet, already.
Just take a look for yourself, think for a while, and move on.
Things fall apart. I suppose we’ll see how much. I’d rather look pitiable and foolish than depressingly accurate.
The idea of bronze men (appetitive, trading), silver men (guardians), and gold men (philosopher-kings) rings authoritarian to the modern ear. Plato’s Ideal City has a rigid, birth caste system.
Yet, he founded the first university, more or less, and grounded learning away from Homer and towards a different set of truth and knowledge claims. Many of these claims became intertwined within Christian doctrine later on.
Reading Thrasymachus more as a nihilist, too, has its uses (as a counter-balance to Marx, to the radical utopians and to the postmodern power-all-the-way-down theorists).
This blog remains skeptical of the idea that ‘political theory’ and the modernization of new and emergent fields of thought will meet the claims of many political theorists and modernizers.
If you want to acquire or re-acquire a deep map of understanding, and one of the founding doctrines of Western thought, here’s the material presented pretty clearly and knowledgably.
Really, it’s conversational, like a good podcast ought to be:
“The Peloponennisian War created the sorts of tension in Athens that would appear to support Thucydides’ analysis. Obligations to the community required greater sacrifice and presented a clearer conflict with the self-seeking “Homeric” pursuit of one’s status, power and pleasure. In political terms, people had to decide whether or not to plot against the democracy to bring off an Olgarchic coup. In moral terms they had to decide whether or not to ignore the demands of the community, summed up in the requirements of “justice,” in favor of their own honor, status, power, and in general their perceived interest. Plato was familiar with people who preferred self-interest over other-regarding obligation; his own relatives, Critias and Charmides, made these choices when they joined the Thirty Tyrants.
Arguments from natural philosophy did not restrain people like Critias and Charmides. Democritus argues unconvincingly that the requirements of justice and the demands of nature, as understood by Atomism, can be expected to coincide. Protogoras rejects the view that moral beliefs are true and well grounded only if they correspond to some reality independent of believers; admittedly they are matters of convention, but so are all other beliefs about the world. This line or argument removes any ground for preferring nature over convention, but at the same time seems to remove any rational ground for preferring one convention over another.”