John Gray At Unherd-British Politics, Tragic Realism and Some Predictions: Caught Between Populism & Institutional Dysfunction

Predictions are hard, especially about the future. Thanks for reading, and for stopping by.

My two cents:

  1. Technological dislocation is still going strong, and the recent developments in chat AI offer some predictive power. Labor costs, for most companies, are among the highest. Many smart and not-so-smart people never learn how to write well, nor persuasively. But they have other skills. The technology is here to utilize software prosthetics to do a lot of writing for us, instead of paying a writer. Writing well is a practical, creative and mind-changing journey, and will continue to influence entire civilizations, but paying for labor is an even tougher sell. This makes me wonder: How many specialized, well-educated 135 IQ thought-leaders will fall into a kind of resentful, punitive criticism? It’s tough to say, but, there will be many (writing well requires understanding and synthesis, but quickly surpasses knowledge and experience). This is why journalism generally loses money, with activists and deeper billionaire pockets funding most outlets.
  2. An older American order, with aristocratic W.A.S.P. gatekeepers, more private religious belief and public square rule-making has eroded considerably. I view this set-up as having corrected many excesses of the market and maintained a lot of trust required between personal behavior and public office. Rules, rule-makers and maintaining legitimate authority can be tricky, but are found among the most important things. So, too, is maintaining a government of the people, by the people and for the people. I’d argue that a secular, technocratic humanism more common in Europe is now a likely majority in American life. Whether or not this is driven by a default, watered-down Marxism in the ‘collective-mind’ is debatable, but challenging the ideal requires wounding an idealist in the place where belief lives. It can even become deadly or disqualifying when a person challenges considerable power. This has lots of implications for speech, rules, and dissent. It will probably even affect what’s ‘cool.’ It’s tough to say what the new personal behavior and public office connection is going to be, but, as mentioned, I think it matters more than most things.
  3. The postmodern pull is still very strong, and deep, as currents go. This blog has discussed Schopenhauer’s Will to Nietzsche’s ‘Will to Power’ nihilism, the Straussian response, and various downstream consequences. There are some pretty good reasons to be liberal, but in America, I’d like to stop the lurch leftward towards true-believing, anti-speech activism and predictably stodgy, out-of-touch liberal idealism. That way lies disorder and potential violence. This blog, at least, has offered a nod to David Hume’s empiricism, J.S. Mill’s utilitarianism, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s self-reliant gnosticism, and Isaiah Berlin’s positive and negative freedoms. At the very least, I’m realistically hoping these could become brighter lights in the nihilist fog. We’ll see…

How might this translate into American politics? While I reject even Conrad’s ‘Heart Of Darkness’ existential nihilism (say…the craziness of Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’), which Gray has espoused in the past, I often fall into tragic realism. I’ve called it ‘depressive realism’ but it’s actually full of optimism. There’s a lot to be optimistic about, accounting for reality and human nature, and how mostly local and personal the good things in our lives are.

But, you’ve got to aim to be good, especially to your loved ones. I think life has a mystery to it, beyond most of our conceptions of life. That said, I view human nature as generally fixed in many ways (religious belief, traditions, the arts and many sciences are simply reflections of what we are, what the truth is, and how we interact with the world). But I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t necessarily know what’s right for you. I support the creative arts and the penetrating truths of the natural sciences and independent thinkers.

Personally, I look for the optimism found in home and hearth where love lives, and promises are made. I look for the looking-out for each other generally found in town and country, in friendships, and in some reasonable, capable talented people found in functional at-scale institutions within cities.

To be vulgar: There are dicks, pussies and assholes everywhere, so try not to be any one of these things, nor for very long. There are decent people everywhere, expanding their skills, talents and including others, with right aims and good minds, while generally avoiding too much f**king around.

In the public square: I favor a free-speech, no-nonsense skepticism, casting a cold eye on life and how institutional incentives actually work. I think Natural Law offers something of a lockbox to keep some of the true-believers and politicians from trying to engineer all parts of our lives (bound for failure…just as are most attempts to make a theology of ‘Man’). Unfortunately, Nautral Law is being replaced with a lot of (S)elf-centered therapeutics, the ‘personal-is-political’ empathy abstractions, anti-human movements, ‘-Isms’ and various flavors of ideology.

Worthy replacements?

Like Gray, I see a lot of political contention ahead, and even dangerous instability because of these misalignments. I’m something of an optimist, BUT, within a depressive realism and a certain tragic view of life.

Of course, take me and my views with a grain of salt.

I’ve heard few liberals really accounting for these increasingly obvious failures of liberal ideas and leadership, but a few have, and a few older-school Lefties (change-first, injustice-focused) are actually the new civil libertarians and defenders of speech.

Global technocracy and authoritarianism will become a default for many idealists when human nature and reality bear down.

On that note: I’ve heard few conservatives really admit that the older tent has mostly fallen down, and the neo-cons, Bushies, Reaganites, religious folks, unmodern folks, war-hawks (when attached to home and hearth) are now in disarray while attacking each other. Most people I know live in-between personal reality, populist anger and a kind of institutional malaise and dysfunction.

Blame is all around. I see Trump as a kind of untrustworthy, narcissistic standard-bearer for ideas which few conservative thinking types will actually defend, given the currents in our lives and politics.

I don’t think this is a healthy situation.

Meanwhile, a lot of obvious realities go unsaid for ALL citizens, and such problems aren’t merely local, but many of the solutions probably will be.

Why Should You Read Poems, Prose & The Great Works, Anyways?

Whitney Sha at The Point: ‘Subjectivity and Its Discontents

‘This conclusion is rarely discussed on a systematic level, although humanists have proposed individual responses to it. Some, for starters, play the “no true humanist” card: there may be bullshit in some humanistic disciplines or by some humanists, but real work in the humanities is just as rigorous and legitimate as work in the sciences. Classicist and philosopher Martha Nussbaum, for example, has accused literary scholar Stanley Fish of radical relativism and gender theorist Judith Butler of deliberate obfuscation; philosopher John Searle has combed through Jacques Derrida’s work to reveal that, for all its ambition and difficulty, it is ultimately “unintelligible.” If Fish and Butler and Derrida have somehow failed in their charge as humanists, then the humanities as a whole don’t have to be responsible for justifying their work.’

I suspect the search for deeper metaphysical and epistemological grounds in the humanities will always be afoot, be they ‘postmodern’ or otherwise.  Simply reading texts is probably not enough for quicker minds, which often seek deeper truth and knowledge claims to anchor thought and so often, reinforce behavioral norms.  The ‘why’ questions will nag and often coalesce into higher and competing spires, especially upon university grounds.

On this site, see:

A more religious defense (Roger Scruton) of why you should read great works and the religion-sized-hole-filled by-Marxism-approach (Terry Eagleton) mirroring many downstream debates occuring within the British political economy.

A particularly British affair (hopefully the centuries of stratification support a deeper Marxism on that side of the pond):

Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

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

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 Successful

What have I gotten wrong, here?: Jordan Peterson deploys Jungian metaphysics, downstream of Nietzsche, to make knowledge claims which challenge Blackmore’s reasonably pedestrian modern materialism and atheism.

In other words, Peterson’s defense of Jungian archetypes, including those potentially found in the Bible (and perhaps viewed from the depths of Nietzsche’s nihilism), might connect with biology more profoundly than Blackmore’s psychological materialism might have been able to address.

Nihilism is an interesting epistemological ground out of which to make knowledge claims of transcendant objects, or at least, out of which to synthesize biological knowledge and knowledge claims which align within the burgeoning field of neuroscience.

The desire each of us seems to have for transcendence, wisdom and stories (especially kids) within the subjectivity of our own lived experiences, the deeper hopes and beliefs which seem ever-present (if not consciously realized) in our waking lives, the relationships with loved ones which inform, and probably ought to inform our moral judgments and moral thinking, might align with Jungian archetypes, Greek myths and the King James Bible, and thus some sort of Nietzschen nihilist denial of objective reality or the structure of the material world explored by the sciences…or…they might not.

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:

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

Some Free Thoughts On Disaffected Liberals, Media and Twitter

For some disaffected liberals, weaning one’s Self from increasingly biased outlets can be liberating. There are diminishing returns within the ‘activist’ and ‘liberationist’ doctrines, constantly centering activist concerns as virtuous and the latest sexual/moral/political liberation as sacred. Sooner or later, within the ‘-Ism’ soup, individuals realize THEIR speech, property, and legal rights can become threatened.

Disagree at your own peril.

We all depend, to some extent, on existing institutions for our freedoms. Freedoms come with responsibilities.

Liberalism requires proper philosophical and moral grounding to claim authority, while the knowledge claims of the sciences/social sciences/secular idealists continually run aground (as all authority does, as we all do) upon human nature and reality. Rationalists can’t plan everything and don’t know everything. The social sciences don’t describe everything and can’t merely be minted into public policy by self-appointed gatekeepers. Liberal idealists keep getting mugged from their Left within the nihilist, postmodern Fog Of The Self.

In terms of media, people want substance, reasonable fact-checking, and a place to mostly suspend disbelief while reinforcing existing belief. Peter Boghossian might be filling some small bit of that need.

Twitter as part of the Public Square: Back when I got a liberal arts education, I concluded something similar: The old guard had pedagogy and structure younger people, for the most part, had trouble accessing. There were systemic issues within the epistemology of a liberal arts education, while fewer and fewer people were actively reading. I figured the same, deeper postmodern philosophical debate would just occur on a delay for publications like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and NPR, and within our institutions (law/politics/media).

It was here long before me.

If the institutions are having systemic issues, then the outlets reporting on them, and leaning upon older technologies, are having systemic issues as well.

I’d have to say I agree with about 90% of the below, because speech means supporting the people you don’t like, and whom you think are dangerous:

Related On This Site:

Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

-Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

-Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

– Various Products Of Radical Reason And Reactions To Them- John Gray At The New Statesman

Repost-Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

One of the more solid moral foundations for why you should be liberal still comes from J.S. Mill:

“The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law or opinion. And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details. They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals. They preferred endeavoring to alter the feelings of mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, with heretics generally. The only case in which the higher ground has been taken on principle and maintained with consistency, by any but an individual here and there, is that of religious belief:…”

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007), 8-9.

Watch out for the assumption of rational and knowable ends, and the one-stop-shop of modern doctrines promising radical liberation. All that’s left is to implement such knowledge into systems that will lead all men to some point outside of themselves.: -The Englightenment/Romantic tension…the horror of rationalist systems which claimed knowledge of man’s ends, but also a defense of both positive and negative liberties-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Repost-From The Access Resource Network: Phillip Johnson’s “Daniel Dennett’s Dangerous Idea’

Originally posted twelve years ago now. A healthy empiricism (there is a world out there, and our senses can potentially give us a direct connection to it) doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me.

Full piece here.

I’ve found this type of hubris in some quarters:

‘Daniel Dennett’s fertile imagination is captivated by the very dangerous idea that the neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution should become the basis for what amounts to an established state religion of scientific materialism.’

There are a lot of areas in which religion, libertarianism, and secular liberalism come into conflict, and I don’t think education here in America is any exception:

“Dennett cannot be accused of avoiding the religious liberty issue, or of burying it in tactful circumlocutions. He proposes that theistic religion should continue to exist only in “cultural zoos,” and he says this directly to religious parents:

‘If you insist on teaching your children falsehoods– that the earth is flat, that “Man” is not a product of evolution by natural selection–then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity. Our future well-being–the well-being of all of us on the planet–depends on the education of our descendants.’

Of course it is not freedom of speech that worries the parents, but the power of atheistic materialists to use public education for indoctrination, while excluding any other view as “religion.”

Our author finishes with:

“Science is a wonderful thing in its place. Because science is so successful in its own territory, however, scientists and their allied philosophers sometimes get bemused by dreams of world conquest. Paul Feyerabend put it best: “Scientists are not content with running their own playpens in accordance with what they regard as the rules of the scientific method, they want to universalize those rules, they want them to become part of society at large, and they use every means at their disposal — argument, propaganda, pressure tactics, intimidation, lobbying — to achieve their aims.” Samuel Johnson gave the best answer to this absurd imperialism. “A cow is a very good animal in the field; but we turn her out of a garden.”

There are always dangers.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Also On This Site: A former Marxist materialist and still quite anti-religious:  Via Youtube: “UC Television-Conversations With History: Christopher Hitchens”

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’

Jesse Prinz argues that morals too, have roots in emotions, and argues that evo-psy/cog-sci should get back to British Empiricism, with some Nietzsche thrown in, among other things-More On Jesse Prinz. A Review Of “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” At Notre DameJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads. Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”

Repost-Elite Access, Is It Good To Be Ambitious?-There Will Be Authority And There Will Be People In Charge, If There Aren’t Already, I’m Pretty Sure

Martin Gurri via Marginal Revolution:  ‘Notes From A Nameless Conference:’

Gurri offers an interesting take on matters socio-cultural:

The dilemma is that this present is defined by a radical distrust of the institutions of industrial society, and of the elites that control them, and of their statements and descriptions of reality. The conference organizers got our predicament right. At every level of contemporary social and political life, we are stuck in the muck of a profound crisis of authority.

Hmmm…:

‘The senior people, largely white and male, seemed to believe that, in punishment for the sins of their fathers, trust had fractured along identity lines.  Women today were thought to trust only women, for example.  Muslims trusted Muslims, and no one else.  Some archetypical essence of “woman” or “Muslim” made internal communications possible, and separated each group from the rest of the human race.  It was, to be sure, a disaster of biblical proportions – the story of Babel told in the times of the tweet – and it left the men in charge desperate to put forward individuals of a different sex and skin coloration, to say the things they wanted to hear.

For younger elites, trust involves a sort of cosplay of historical conflicts.  They put on elaborate rhetorical superhero costumes, and fight mock-epic battles with Nazis, fascists, “patriarchs,” slave-owners, George III, and the like.  Because it’s only a game, no one gets seriously hurt – but nothing ever gets settled, either.  Eventually, the young cosplayers must put away their costumes, take one last sip of Kombucha, and set off, seething with repressed virtue, to make money in the world as it really is.’

Previous ‘elite’ links on this site, arriving at some yet predictable, unrealized truths:  Via Marginal Revolution via American Affairs: ‘The Western Elite From A Chinese Perspective:’

Kenneth Anderson At Volokh: ‘The Fragmenting of the New Class Elites, Or, Downward Mobility

Two Kinds Of Elite Cities in America?

There are people with careers writing about elites, becoming somewhat elite themselves, which haven’t fared too well

Roger Sandall from ‘Guardianship: The Utopia Of The New Class‘ finishes with:

‘One remembers Weber’s epitaph for the Protestant Ethic, as he contemplated a devitalised bourgeoisie spiritlessly tending the petrified mechanism their ancestors had raised. Adapted, without apology, it might also be used to depict that petrified Utopia of the New Ruling classes of the East.

Weber:

‘Rulers without honour, administrators without heart, priests without conviction, this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilisation never before achieved.’

———————-

As previously posted:

Charles Murray argues that controlling the data for just for whites in America, a gap has opened up between working-class ‘Fishtown’ and professional-class ‘Belmont.’ Fishtowners have increasing rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, more isolation from churches, civic organizations and the kinds of voluntary associations that Murray suggests can make a life more fulfilling, regardless of income beyond certain basic needs. Fishtowners have higher incidences of drug and alcohol use and intermittent work.

Belmonters, on the other hand, are mostly college-educated and beyond, still tend to court, marry, engage in family planning and tend to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Folks in Belmont are still living more moderate personal lives and working to stay ahead in the changing economy through academia, the professions, government, tech, business and global business.

Being a social scientist with a more limited government/small ‘c’ conservative/libertarian worldview, Murray likely sees a smaller role for government and limited ways in which some people acting through government can actually solve problems in other people’s lives. As a contrarian social scientist in a small minority, then, he disagrees with many basic assumptions often found amongst a majority of social scientists.

Murray thus advocates for people in ‘Belmont’ to increasingly preach what they practice, to look outside the bubble of their daily lives and wealthier enclaves, and perhaps reconstitute the kinds of family and civic associations, moral virtues and opportunities for independence and success he’d like to see more broadly.

What this would look like in practice, exactly, is unclear.

=======================

Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone‘, seems to agree with Murray about what much of what the data highlights: Working-class whites are behaving more like working-class non-whites, and college-educated non-whites are behaving more like college-educated whites.

Putnam also focuses more on economic factors, the decline of manufacturing and the disappearance of working-class jobs that has without question affected large parts of America and small-town life. Globalization has opened American firms to global competition, global capital markets and mobile labor. Whatever your thoughts on race, Putnam creates some daylight between the data and strictly race based interpretations (often aligned with ideology, especially in academia nowadays) and focuses more on ‘class’ in a way slightly differently than does Murray.

An interesting discussion, in which the empirical research of social science can highlight important differences in political philosophy and try and transcend the inevitable political and ideological battles of the day.

Just thought I’d Throw This In There:

An interesting take from Slate Star Codex-‘The APA Meeting: A Photo-Essay:’

There’s a popular narrative that drug companies have stolen the soul of psychiatry. That they’ve reduced everything to chemical imbalances. The people who talk about this usually go on to argue that the true causes of mental illness are capitalism and racism. Have doctors forgotten that the real solution isn’t a pill, but structural change that challenges the systems of exploitation and domination that create suffering in the first place?

No. Nobody has forgotten that. Because the third thing you notice at the American Psychiatric Association meeting is that everyone is very, very woke.

This reminds me of a poem by Robert Pinsky, entitled ‘Essay On Psychiatrists’

V. Physical Comparison With Professors And Others

Pink and a bit soft-bodied, with a somewhat jazzy
Middle-class bathing suit and sandy sideburns, to me
He looked from the back like one more professor.

And from the front, too—the boyish, unformed carriage
Which foreigners always note in American men, combined
As in a professor with that liberal, quizzical,

Articulate gaze so unlike the more focused, more
Tolerant expression worn by a man of action (surgeon,
Salesman, athlete). On closer inspection was there,

Perhaps, a self-satisfied benign air, a too studied
Gentleness toward the child whose hand he held loosely?
Absurd to speculate; but then—the woman saw something.

First The Materialism And Rationalism, Then The Utopianism and Irrationalism Later On-Some Links

You may have noticed modern ‘-Ist’ movements focus upon the material and rational, often to then move further into the nihilist and irrational, towards an utopian ideal. Market comparisons are leveraged to prove a woman’s worth, usually against some previous constraint or tradition. Housework=x. By itemizing and assigning a dollar value to every household task a woman performs, the goal is likely to liberate and bring her closer to the males free to compete in the marketplace. Freedom is next!

Since women have been oppressed and left historically with fewer choices (certainly true in many respects and many places), this individual woman will be liberated from the previous oppression, using the market as her yardstick. Think of a dollar sign behind every daily chore she does, regardless of all the other deeper reasons she/we/any of us might be doing such chores. At a minimum (the fallback defense), such a move will grant more individuals the freedom to choose (free to choose a job or stay at home with the kids), harnessing all the intelligence, drive and ability which had previously been constrained through narrower religious and traditional channels.

I first came across the argument through Laura Kipnis (a feminist), and I support her in pointing out the absurdity of campus sexual identity politics and the encroachments upon reason:

Within the postmodern soup, however, the union of a visual artist, feminist theorist, and dry contrarian academic bureaucrat [is] probably a sign of the times.

What I think is true: Ignorance is usually the rule in human affairs, not the exception. Many women make bad choices, and must live with them (the rest of us, too, just like the men making bad choices). Some women are not particularly bright and are of pretty limited scope. Women aren’t inherently better nor worse than men. The feminist position staked out through the the humanities (Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, the Bronte Sisters, Virginia Woolfe) certainly showcases what creative ability and brilliance can do. Yet, it, too must also help us confront the nature of human evil, the poor judgment which comes with the passions, and the pursuit of truth.

So, perhaps the previous traditions and grooved channels were a reflection of much of what we are, for good or ill. Their ruins are those through which we still walk.

Human nature probably hasn’t changed all that much during the last few centuries, either. Raising good people, good students, and good citizens is probably one of our highest callings, both men and women alike. Any one of us, throughout our lives, can allow worse passions enough leverage to cause tremendous misery and suffering to ourselves and others. Such truths are absolutely vital in maintaining the institutions which maintain a Republic.

I think the materialist and rationalist position fails to really account for what really motivates most of us, most of the time. I also think it represents an ultimate move towards the postmodern (S)elf left to resolve such questions alone, or through the increasingly strident modern ‘moral cause’ and politico-identity movements which don’t necessarily bring ‘peace’ nor consensus.

–On that note:

I think some Catholics are saying true things about modernity and secular humanism. It’s refreshing because liberal idealism and secular humanism have generally come to dominate, with all of their triumphs and problems.

Let’s not forget all the problems of truth, corruption, authority and knowledge which come with the Catholic church, while supporting the critique of the ‘-Ists’ and ‘-Isms’ in both fashion and considerable power.

See Protein Wisdom for a discussion about language and intentionalism, and how it gets deployed.

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

The nihilist claims are deeper than you may think, and the Nietzschean, and Will–>Will to Power German influence is also deeper than most people think; offering profound criticisms of the scientific project, liberalism, liberal institutions, and a secular humanism which is the air many folks breathe these days.

Here’s a somewhat similar vein of thought.  From friesian.com:

Although Anglo-American philosophy tended to worship at the feet of science, the drift of academia to the left has led to characteristically totalitarian political attacks on science itself — this despite the leftist program to use “climate science” to impose a Sovietized command economy on energy and the tactic to smear climate skeptics, i.e. “Deniers,” through associaton with Creationism or Neo-Nazi Holocaust denial. None of that has stopped the “post-modern” move…’

From The Remodern Review: ‘The Death Of University Programs, Part 3: Ignorance As A Method Of Critique’


Full post here
.

Hmmm…..

‘These endless deconstructive debates might not have done our art much good, but it was sure setting us up to take part in the approved modes of the establishment art world. They think if they pile enough words together, they can justify anything. However, they are profoundly wrong. Real art is self evident, and does not need to be propped up with a bunch of meaningless art speak.’

What I noticed in literature:  Most of the old-guard had higher standards and more rigorous methods.  They wanted closer readings and had clearer expectations.  I suspect most thought they actually possessed both knowledge and wisdom and, frankly, they were there to impart both their knowledge and wisdom to us, the students.

‘What happened between them and me?’, I would find myself wondering.

As for the canon, there was the vague notion that it had been, no, still is, being dismantled.  Some deeper epistemic questions tended to hang in the air, put to students straightaway (how does anyone know anything, man? What does a Self do against Nothingness and the Void? how should I be a Creative Self?).

Ah, well.

***As for my own self-indulgent, amateur photos. Thanks for looking. I do it because that’s what keeps me interested. Most require words; associated with a lot of own experiences and attempts at getting better (you don’t really get better unless you’re your own worst critic).

I won’t really get you noticed, and I won’t likely bring you fame nor readership. But I really do thank you for stopping by.

Bonus: Jay Parini on Gore Vidal and an essay I recall skewering parts of academia.

Related On This Site:

Repost-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

-Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

-Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

– Various Products Of Radical Reason And Reactions To Them- John Gray At The New Statesman

Repost-Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

As previously posted:

An old 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.

—————–

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.”

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 into the postmodern weeds?:

 —————————–

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?

See Also On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Martha Nussbaum says the university needs to be defend Socratic reason and still be open to diversity:  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’ 

Stanley Fish also says keep politics out of academia: From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux…

Update & Repost-More Culture Wars-From The WSJ: ‘The New Unmarried Moms’

Full piece here (originally posted in 2013).

Our authors may be following Charles Murray’s lead, which he outlined in ‘Coming Apart:’

They write:

‘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:

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***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.

Glenn Reynolds has a piece at USA Today.

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).

Can this be right?

Thanks for reading.

Related On This Site:   Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People…Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…

Kay Hymowitz In The The City Journal: Love In The Time Of DarwinismKay Hymowitz In The City Journal: Child-Man In The Promised Land?Kay Hymowitz At The City Journal: ‘How Brooklyn Got Its Groove Back’

Which Ideas Are Going To Inform Education?-A Few Humble Links

My very un-hot take: The deconstructionism dominant in the academy scoops out all kinds of meaning from texts and lives, with an ever-present focus on the (S)elf (not necessarily the individual). Many very good artists this past century have flirted with Communism/Socialism as an alternative organizing system within this existential void, or have retreated to a kind of nihilism (the idea that there is no objective reality).

Some of their art, often reaching highest levels, lives beyond them.

This intellectual milieu partly informs what is replacing the previous educational ideas we had at many levels of American society.

Teaching younger folks, especially, tends to be people-oriented and requiring of patience, sensitivity to developmental and behavioral issues, and interpersonal communication. This tends to attract a higher proportion of women (this disparity is mentioned in the video below). Many good women, in particular, and many good people (minds, characters, habits), have implicitly or explicitly supported feminism as a means of more freedom the past few generations. Much feminist doctrine has quite radical ideas about the family, the Nation, and the aims of education, which also helps produce good people.

Conflicts abound.

Good teachers tend to aim at higher things with humility (like knowledge, personal growth for themselves and the students, as well as duty…to some kind of ideal). You never really know what they think personally, but they encourage you to think well. Americans have been a particularly idealistic civilization.

In my experience, many less good teachers only aim at rising through the educracy, or at a job with a pension, or maybe easy enforcement of existing ideas without having to do too much. Incentives matter.

More broadly, some people are just unstable and without identity, finding primary meaning within radical and destructive ideologies. They embody the beliefs and live through them. Some of these doctrines are finding their way into some curricula in our schools and the results will not be pretty (I think of them as the new postmodern religionists, who are incredibly hostile to all outside their ideology).

It’s be nice if we could just say these are some of the costs of change, without blaming those who reason from a position more skeptical of change. I’m not holding my breath.

George Packer (old-school liberal?) at the Atlantic: ‘The Grown-Ups Are Losing It

Students are leaving as well. Since 2020, nearly 1.5 million children have been removed from public schools to attend private or charter schools or be homeschooled. Families are deserting the public system out of frustration with unending closures and quarantines, stubborn teachers’ unions, inadequate resources, and the low standards exposed by remote learning.

Walter Russell Mead’s interesting piece-Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I:

Generally, political inertia and public worker unions combined to keep government in the Blue Age even as the rest of the economy moved on.  Today, the experiences and the expectations of people in the private sector and people in the public sector are quite different.  There are many results, including taxpayer revolts against public sector benefits and pay, but from an urban policy standpoint the key one is this: the government job machine is no longer an escalator to the middle class.  In fact, the dependence of the Black middle class on government work is going to be one of the chief threats to the health of the Black middle class as we’ve known it’

Also On This Site:Andrew Delbanco At The NY Times Review Of Books: ‘The Two Faces Of American Education’ Diane Ravitch At Education Week: ‘Why Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty Lost’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

From Reason.Tv: ‘NBC’s Education Summit-Joe Trippi, Michelle Rhee & More’From The Washington Post: ‘D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee To Announce Resignation Wednesday’

Rhee stated much the same here:  She didn’t connect with the people most involved…Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”Repost-’Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?’

As previously posted-A breath of fresh air from George Packer at the New Yorker: ‘Mute Button:

Conservative To Neo-Conservative To Liberal-A Few Thoughts & Links

Maybe I’m off?: As much as there are truth and knowledge claims, about ourselves and the world, embedded within our ideas about ourselves and the world, it seems we’re often arguing over who should be in charge. Agree on some ‘is’ questions, surround yourself with like minds, and then pursue the ‘oughts’ through education, politics and law.

Oh, there will be authority.

Something like the conservative position-One Nation Under God. Defend home and hearth, and the Constitution. The country was born of revolution, yet not the French, nor the Russian revolutions. The country wasn’t built upon the utopias proffered by Marxist radicals, nor anarchists, nor even the anarcho-capitalist libertarian types (perhaps something more like the Euro-project, built on economic allegiances).

Something like the neo-conservative position-At some point, get mugged by reality, and start questioning many truth and knowledge claims of the liberal idealist and secular humanist project. Defend homes within communities, and use the American military to advance secular humanism and humanistic ideals around the globe. Use law and policy, and the American military, to spread many elements of the Western project in which you pursue your highest goods (Many in China and Russia, and many Muslims and Islamists disagree).

Something like the current Liberal position-Defend houses within the community and ‘societal’ interests in our ‘modern’ world, but America itself may not be worth defending as it is and has been. Many activists and radicals in the party do seem to be co-opting many academic, institutional and bureaucratic positions. Become somewhat invested in the ‘Hitler-Year-Zero’ Marxist conception of conservatives, traditionalists, and religious believers as potentially ‘evil.’ Standing against progress is certainly morally questionable, and clearly against (H)istory.

The positive visions (environmental/globalist/Health & Safetyism) lead us all into a Statism and authoritarianism present all along.

In the meantime, Johnny, get your gun and fight for Ukraine.

—On that note:

What about a good ‘ol Humanities education?

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.

Friedrich 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.

Martha 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 neo-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.

Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism.  Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism–>Wherever We’re Heading Now

Maybe it all started with Beethoven:  Everyone’s a (S)elf.

Isaiah Berlin pretty much blackballed Roger Scruton, so it’s not all roses.

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.

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?

See Protein Wisdom for a discussion about language and intentionalism, and how it gets deployed.

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

The nihilist claims are deeper than you may think, and the Nietzschean, and Will–>Will to Power German influence is also deeper than most people think; offering profound criticisms of the scientific project, liberalism, liberal institutions, and a secular humanism which is the air many folks breathe these days.

Here’s a somewhat similar vein of thought.  From friesian.com:

Although Anglo-American philosophy tended to worship at the feet of science, the drift of academia to the left has led to characteristically totalitarian political attacks on science itself — this despite the leftist program to use “climate science” to impose a Sovietized command economy on energy and the tactic to smear climate skeptics, i.e. “Deniers,” through associaton with Creationism or Neo-Nazi Holocaust denial. None of that has stopped the “post-modern” move…’