An Alternate Theory Of The Middlebury Mob-Charles Murray Is A Witch!

There were some recitations from the James Baldwin crib-sheet as though from a hymnal at a church service (obviously chanting and turning one’s back ritualistically is at the core of a liberal education).  A few others actually committed acts of escalating aggression and violence.

There were some who were probably incredulous, taking up the job of sloganeering half-heartedly, not really losing themselves amidst the heat of the mob.  The ‘insufficiently-committed’ are always there among us, taking pot-shots at pinatas strung-up above the silly, hot seriousness of it all.

A few intense sorts, though, probably had to be right about Charles Murray because they can’t be anything else (at least inside their own minds, at that moment). They needed some action fast, the truth already decided, the enemy already picked-out, the heretic against the sacred ‘-ism’ selected for his apostasy.

He’s a witch!

So, if you’re in charge at Middlebury, how do you proceed?

You may well tacitly support a lot of the ideology exhibited by the student mob, locked in a weird financial and emotional symbiosis along with them towards liberation against ‘the man.’

It would be unseemly to suddenly become ‘the man’ and inflict your authority along with the dull politics of the bursar and the bottom-line, the dorm room and the suburban checkbook, onto their hopes and dreams.

Charles Murray’s Account Of The Middlebury College Affair

See the previous post.The Intellectual Cowardice Of The Crowd-Charles Murray At Middlebury College

Repost-From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

Repost: Free-Speech, White-Devils & Academics-What Purpose The Enlightenment Without Its Defenders?

Via David Thompson: ‘Don’t Oppress My People With Your White Devil Science

As a Straussian might see it: Once you set up (S)cience on the positivist definition, as the only arbiter of facts, one can very easily invite the anti-(S)cience response in kind, which manifests itself here as the retreat into a victimhood/oppressor ideology.

‘(S)cience’ was only a tool of the white oppressor, anyways, don’t you know (and no one actually has to do the hard work the sciences require…how convenient):

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As to these more radical groups splintering and applying pressure upwards upon institutions of learning (or at least remaining very vocal and demanding voices within them), I remain skeptical of merely relying upon an adaptable and healthy post-Enlightenment humanism to push back against them in the long-run.

It seems groups of post-Enlightenment individuals gathering to solve commonly defined problems is a risky business, indeed, or at least subject to the same old schisms and problems religious institutions underwent and continue to undergo regarding human nature. I think it’s fair to say people and institutions are often requiring of constraints, especially when it comes to political power and lawmaking; especially when it comes to the challenges our civilization faces from within and without in maintaining institutional authority.

I’d like to think that secularly liberal leadership, more broadly, including the people who want to be in charge of all of us (at their best operating from within moral communities of not too great a solipsism and self-regard) can resist such pressures. For there certainly are those who would fracture our institutions into rafts of post-Enlightenment ‘-isms’ and politicized movements often driven by illiberal ideologies; movements relying on the presumed self-sufficiency of reason while behaving quite irrationally.

I’m looking around and not seeing too much decency in American politics, lately.

A.C. Grayling makes one of the better cases for morality without religious doctrine, I’ve heard of late, but I’m not entirely sold these particular problems can be addressed sufficiently:

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Jonathan Haidt has infused the more modern field of moral psychology with some of David Hume’s empiricist theory of mind, the idea that intuitions come first, and our reasons for them are usually trotted out afterwards (when was the last time you walked away from an argument/debate/discussion totally converted and persuaded by the reasoning of the other guy?

Yet, how, exactly, did our institutions of higher-learning get to the point of catering to the loudest, often most naive, and often illiberal student-groups claiming their feelings and ideas deserve special treatment?

Isn’t this already a failure of leadership, to some extent?:

Kudos to Haidt for hanging in there, and providing an example:

Update & Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Haidt’s Vindication of Fusionist Conservatism and Aristotelian Liberalism’

Jonathan Haidt At Minding The Campus: ‘Campus Turmoil Begins In High School’

***My own anecdote: After a fruitful Town Hall discussion here in Seattle, celebrated British mathematician Roger Penrose did some Q & A afterwards. Most questions were from math majors, physicists, engineers and hobbyists in the crowd (many were over my head…but I tried to catch a few).

One question came from a youngish man in a beret, a little unkempt, who asked (in a possibly affected, but in a very serious tone):

‘Mr. Penrose, what is meaning in a moribund universe?

‘Eh…sorry…I didn’t catch that?’

‘What is meaning in a mo-ri-bund universe?’

‘Well, that is a different kind of question…I mean, here’s what I can offer you…’

***That’s roughly how I remember it, and Penrose was gracious, but brisk, in moving onto the kinds of questions he might be able to answer, or for which he could provide some insight.

I have a soft spot for contrarian social scientists, like Charles Murray and Jonathan Haidt, pushing against what can so easily become an orthodoxy: Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People…

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?’

Via Bloggingheads-Helen Andrews On Meritocracy

Full discussion here.

Helen Andrews offers a critique of the meritocratic system she sees dominating U.S. education (more grades, achievement and performance-based…less legacy and WASP based).

Yes, the old system had its problems and horrors, but she cites its end in a Victorian redesign of the British civil service, a redesign whose counterpart is now thriving here in the U.S. since the 1960’s.

Andrews from her original piece:

‘Others favor the slightly more radical solution of redefining our idea of merit, usually in a way that downplays what Guinier calls “pseudoscientific measures of excellence.” She even has a replacement in mind, the Bial-Dale College Adaptability Index, the testing of which involves Legos. (Why are you laughing? It is backed by a study.) This is even less likely to work than fiddling with the equality-of-opportunity end. For one thing, the minority of families willing to do whatever it takes to get into Harvard will still do whatever it takes to get into Harvard.’

and:

‘My solution is quite different. The meritocracy is hardening into an aristocracy—so let it. Every society in history has had an elite, and what is an aristocracy but an elite that has put some care into making itself presentable? Allow the social forces that created this aristocracy to continue their work, and embrace the label.’

Is there proof of a causal mechanism from which this meritocracy will thus harden into an aristocratic elite?

If so, will it just be an elite of different ideals, assumptions, blind-spots and stupidities…now with top-down social-science and pseudo-scientific bureaucratic/administrative oversight?:

As I see it, yes, these schools were always about grooming ambitious, wealthy, and well-connected people to some extent; grooming them into institutions that often govern the rest of us.

***I’d add that much like the deeper logic behind a more general multiculturalism, its practitioners and the younger people raised within this system can easily lose sight of the lenses they’re using to view the world (shared ideals and assumptions about moral virtue, truth and knowledge claims, the idea of moving towards the telos of a ‘better world’ which can now become the social glue of the institutions themselves).

***I should add that I’m rather sympathetic to Andrews’ slow-change, tradition-favoring, conservative-ish, position.

I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of this quote by Ken Minogue:

‘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 ideas.’

-Minogue, Kenneth.  Politics.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).

If we are coming apart, who’s putting us back together? :  Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss…Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Related On This Site: Once you take apart the old structure, you have to criticize the meritocracy you’ve helped create: David Brooks At The NY Times: ‘Why Our Elites Stink’

The anti-intellectual’s intellectual: Repost-Via Youtube: Eric Hoffer-’The Passionate State Of Mind’

Leo Strauss:From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be, which is remarkably like it is now: A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

How dare he?: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?From The Harvard Educational Review-

Still reliving the 60′s?: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

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 trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Speech And The Desire To Control The Language, Thoughts And Minds Of Others-Jordan Peterson Talking With Gad Saad

We are seeing some people in the social sciences use quantitative methodologies to try and understand what’s been going on in many universities, with regard to political philosophy, ideology, and collectivist movements.

The modern fields of psychology, evo and moral psychology, sociology, economics, etc all now seem to have practitioners addressing some threats that (R)eason enthroned can pose to all of our liberties, or at least, the radical and revolutionary ideologues who often profess Reason/Anti-Reason as their guide; seeking immediate social change and influence.

What kinds of people join social justice movements and believe/claim to believe righteously and truly in such causes?   How much of what they say is true?

How might they fit into a broader framework of ‘-isms,’ often seeking radical equality (of outcome) and collective liberation from dominatory oppression?  What potential cost is there to all of our liberties, traditions, and institutions regarding this particular raft of ideas?

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Intellectually, as this blog has noted, there is often a watered-down Hegelianism at work in many movements seeking radical and revolutionary freedom (the master/slave dialectic and the absolute idealism providing intellectual foundation for much of what is called cultural relativism these days, which provided foundation for the Marxism and post-Marxism found in such movements).

Here’s Peterson being questioned by a group as to the merits of his ideas:


As to demands for the use of non-gendered pronouns (which is currently trending): I will say that I have sympathy for people on the margins, people with few options and not many opportunities,  people who face uphill battles, and sometimes genuine threats of physical violence.

That said, I don’t enjoy the idea of playing a game I can’t win.  More speech, not less, is the means to arrive at more truth. Allowing the people you actually fear the freedom to express their ideas allows more sunlight into civil society. I loathe the use of force and the desire to control the thoughts, language and minds of others.

I loathe it even more when it is used as part of a program which attacks our institutions and the legitimate authority required to maintain our institutions, and thus, many of our freedoms.

I most loathe it when it is used to treat other individuals as objects of scorn and oppression, or to shout them down in righteous anger.

Have you learned nothing?

***One rebuttal to the above, of course, would be Hayekian:  There is no knowledge that would allow any person or group of persons to centrally plan a language any more than there is knowledge for anyone to centrally plan an economy (yes, you can compile a dictionary a la Samuel Johnson but, no, Esperanto is probably something of a top-down, rationalistic pipe-dream).


As to those Canadian Human Rights Commissions, as previously posted:

Here are {Ezra} Levant’s opening statements during his investigation:

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Levant was fighting what he saw as an infringement upon his freedom of speech by the Human Rights Commission of Alberta. As editor of the Western Standard, Levant published the Danish cartoons of Mohammed, and found himself investigated by, in his words, “a kangaroo court.”

Originally, a letter was written by Syed Soharwardy, an imam living in Alberta, to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Soharwardy claimed that the cartoons were morally offensive to the religion of Islam. Levant believed his decision to publish the cartoons was protected by Canadian law, and that Soharwardy found a path to legal action (at the expense of Canadian taxpayers) through the Human Rights Commission because no one else would take Soharwardy’s claims seriously.

One of Levant’s main concerns seems to be the the way in which someone like Soharwardy, (with unchallenged religious beliefs, and illiberal ideas of social freedom), has infringed upon his freedoms through an institution like the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

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Heading towards a theme, here’s Mark Steyn discussing complaints brought against Macleans, Canada’s largest publication, by the President of the Canadian Islamic Congress (who sent three representatives) to TVOntario. They were upset at the pieces Steyn had published there. The complaints went through the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for alleged “Islamophobia” and “promoting hate:”

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Pretty heated.

Again, the focus here is not whether Islam is a religion whose followers would eventually clash with the idea of separation of church and state, and/or identify with a larger global pan-Muslim population at the expense of their adopted countries. That’s a different debate. We know that here in America, they are granted a space created by our Constitution for freedom of religion in the public square and no specific religious test for office. They must follow our laws and are protected by them. Living and working alongside one another has its benefits and I generally favor the melting pot approach.

The debate here focuses on the effect that multiculturalism, the human rights crowd, and the public sentiment behind them can have upon freedom of expression when Human Rights Commissions are allowed legal recourse to settle this kind of dispute. This is one of the consequences of those ideas in action, and it’s not exactly liberal. It’s the multicultural solution, and it can be absolutely chilling on speech, placing onerous financial burdens on citizens, and it can create a sort of shadow court with aims of its own (if not jurisdiction) operating alongside the regular courts.

We’re not anywhere near Choudary territory yet, but remember that Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter, had some problems with “workplace violence”. Most multiculturalists really don’t see a problem with their approach.

***A friend points out that the illiberal tendencies of the Muslim complainants in both cases and the illiberalism of the multiculturalists is a good fit. Just don’t be a Canadian on the receiving end.

***This also helps to confirm the libertarian contention that libertarians are the true classical liberals, and modern liberalism has followed the logic of moral relativism, a lot of Continental, New Left, neo-Marxist influences in feminism and race theory which lead to an unhealthy desire to control and be controlled by the State, which will grow larger and larger.

Also On This Site: From The BBC-Kurt Westergaard: ‘Cartoonist Attacker In Danish Court’

Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

Virtual Philosophy has a series on free speech and some links and notes to J.S. Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ among others. Is Mill’s utilitarianism enough?: From virtual philosopher: ‘Free Speech: notes and links for course at Free Word Centre’

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea…as a more entrenched radical British Left and Muslim immigration don’t mix too well: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’

Free speech (used both well and unwell) meets offended Muslims: Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

Repost-Eugene Volokh At The National Review: ‘Multiculturalism: For or Against?’Theodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In BritainFrom The Volokh Conspiracy: Multiculturalism As A Traditional American Value

Why Should You Get A Liberal Education? From The ASAN Institute Via Vimeo: ‘Michael Oakeshott’s Cold War Liberalism 1’

More here.

Link sent in by a reader.

Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).

According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.

Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities.  The two are mutually dependent to some extent.

Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.

Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian ne0-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics.  This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.

On this site, see: Mark Pennington Via Vimeo: ‘Democracy And The Deliberative Conceit’

A taste of her Nussbaum hereAlso, see: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Via C-SPAN-The Historical Context Of Allan Bloom

…Timothy Fuller At The New Criterion: ‘The Compensations Of Michael Oakeshott’John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

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As previously posted:

Heather MacDonald piece here (link may not last)

Oh, the humanity.

I agree that students, when facing a syllabus, shouldn’t also have to face the great books mediated, nor their young minds circumscribed, by overt political ideologies.

MacDonald:

‘In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”

Upon hearing “gender, sexuality, race, and class,” I confess my head hangs down a bit and a sigh escapes my lips. Such a lack of imagination does great disservice to works of such powerful imagination.

Then again, I remember my last trip to Southern California (zing).

Of course, there still needs to be an intellectual framework and curriculum for the humanities.

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On that note, Roger Scruton had some keen insights:

“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”

“…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.”

Quite importantly:

“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.”

This is a matter of deep debate in our society right now.

Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, debates Scruton below.

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

Are we really that thick in the postmodern weeds?:

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Judgment, as Scruton points out, shouldn’t necessarily be subsumed to political ideology.  I would agree, and I generally default in assuming that each one of us is the ultimate arbiter of our own judgment.

But, no man is an island.

Does Scruton’s thinking eventually lead us back to the problems that religion can have with artists and writers?

Is there anybody whom you trust to decide what you should and shouldn’t read?

Parents?  Great authors?  Public intellectuals?  Professors?  God?  Laws and lawmakers? Religious leaders?  A school-board?  A democratic majority?  People who think like you?  A Council of Cultural Marxists?

The Department of Institutionalized Idiocy?

uploaded by mattbucher

University Renewal, Freedom Isn’t Free & The Gobbler

Alan Jacobs at National Affairs: ‘Renewing The University’

‘For, whomever or whatever you might blame for the current state of affairs, the recent hostilities have been distinctly unfriendly to the creating and sustaining of intellectual energy. Universities need to get beyond these disputes, at least to some degree, if they are going to retain any meaningful chance to fulfill their social missions.’

Hmmm.  Many intemperate people with radical views have been rewarded, in many cases, for their intemperance and for their radical views.  I doubt many such people will be voluntarily returning any of the budget (the People’s budget!) anytime soon.

My two cents: Keep learning, aim for moral decency, and be reasonably open to new experiences and criticism.  On a daily basis you will often meet people smarter than you or better than you at something you thought you were good at (humbling, to be sure). Everyone knows many things you never will.

I’ve found that true-belief is everywhere, and people taken up into belief are often pretty clear about what’s not up for discussion.  Ideologues sometimes believe what they say, sometimes not.  In fact, go by what other people do, not what they say.

Once there is an apparatus of incentives, procedures, prestige and money set-up around a set of ideas and principles; such as found in universities, companies, organizations and bureaucracies, such things tend to keep going until they can’t any longer.

The worse the ideas and incentives are, the worse the people in them tend to behave.  So, aim to get into reputable organizations, and, should you find yourself within one, ask what you’re bringing to the table.

You probably believe in some ideas and principles yourself, right now, but as for that, keep thinking, and check often to make sure your head isn’t up yours or someone else’s ass.

There is very little evidence that life is fair.

P.S. Hey, have a little fun!


From The College Fix: This guy seems pretty reasonable, and he grew-up within the old Cold War structure in Romania (the cold makes you strong!).

He did leave…


Via Twitter, The Gobbler is back (we’ll see):

Click here to experience ‘The Gobbler.

‘If you’re ever wondering what the War Room of “Dr. Strangelove” would look like if the movie had been directed by Prince, here you go.’

After taking the photo tour, I remain convinced that ‘The Gobbler’ exists in its own realm of awesome badness.  Such a shag-covered, abandoned love-child of the late 60’s and early 70’s is challenging just what I thought I knew about American culture.

And while I can lounge in the bathos of this Wisconsin motor court/supper club’s global ambitions, and walk through the valley of the shadow of its modernist, U.N. international style, I still can’t fathom the intentions of its authors.

Why, Gobbler, why?

Want to lose an afternoon?  Visit Lileks.com.  A fine humorist with a sharp pen and a keen eye.  This is what the internet is for.

Additionally:  Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism.  From the banner of his blog:

‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’