Repost-Roger Kimball At Arma Virumque: ‘Santayana On Liberalism And Other Matters Of Interest’

Full essay here.

Worth a read:

‘My point is only that Santayana — the Spanish-born, Boston-bred, Harvard educated cosmopolite — stands out as an unusual specimen in the philosophical fraternity. He wrote beautifully, for one thing, commanding a supple yet robust prose that was elegant but rarely precious or self-infatuated’

and Kimball on Santayana’s interaction with William James:

‘Temperamentally, the two men were complete opposites — James bluff, hearty, the thorough New England pragmatist in manner as well as philosophical outlook: Santayana the super-refined, sonnet-writing, exquisitely disillusioned Catholic Spaniard. In many ways, Santayana was closer in spirit to William’s brother Henry.’

For what it’s worth, I recall a deeply Catholic lament and longing in the Spanish character, which can be combined with a kind of clear-eyed realism and stoicism, but not always. The faith runs deep in St Teresa and her passions, and despite Miguel de Unamuno’s rationalist influences, I remember a general preference for wisdom in the Tragic Sense Of Life.

Something clicked regarding Spain when I finally visited the Escorial outside of Madrid after many months of being in that city. It’s a grand castle of course, but it also struck me as rather plain, barracks-like at times. Very austere. It was explained that the Escorial was both a royal palace and a monastery:

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Quote found here:

‘Philip’s instructions to Herrera stipulated “simplicity of form, severity in the whole, nobility without arrogance, majesty without ostentation,” qualities clearly illustrated by the long sweep of these facades.’

That Catholic influence can also get a little intense:

‘El Escorial was built to honor St. Lawrence, who was burned on a grill. In order to remind the citizens of his martyrdom and sacrifice, the entire building is a grill. Yes, it is shaped like a grill. There are paintings of St. Lawrence on a grill, grills are carved into the doorways, the weather vain is in the shape of a grill, the backs of chairs are supposed to be grills, the list literally could go on forever.’

Maybe they got a little carried away during the Reconquest.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarSome Sunday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

British conservatism with a fair amount of German idealist influence: Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: ‘Farewell To Judgment’

Via The University Of British Colombia: Kant-Summary Of Essential PointsFrom Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSunday Quotation: From Jonathan Bennett On Kant

From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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 A Reader-Link To 60 Minutes Australia On China In The South Pacific

Hmmm…that could be worth watching.

If you live in a society which hasn’t developed a profound and enduring concept of the individual in relation to the group, moral philosophies dedicated to the defense of individual liberty, laws emerging from the free association of individuals entering and leaving contracts with authority and with each other, well…,you might be living under a post-ish Communist centralized party apparatus laid atop a few-thousand year-old hierarchy laid atop a rapidly changing chaotic civilization.

Christopher Balding (via Marginal Revolution) has some thoughts about China during his nine years living there, and the turn taken under Xi:

‘I want to make perfectly clear that any complaints I wrote about in any forum are reflective only of my concerns about the illiberal, authoritarian communist government of China and not the Chinese people. Most professor colleagues, even those I would consider pro-Party, were good colleagues whom I enjoyed talking, debating(yes, it happens behind closed doors and I learned a lot from them)…’

As posted:

Tyler Cowen from his blog: ‘The Rise And Fall Of The Chinese Economy

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From a George F Kennan article written in 1948 on China.

My how times have changed!:

‘From the analysis in this paper of demographic and economic factors it is concluded that for years to come China will probably be plagued by (1) an implacable population pressure, which is likely to result in (2) a general standard of living around and below the subsistence level, which in turn will tend to cause (3) popular unrest (4) economic backwardness, (5) cultural lag, and (6) an uncontrolled crude birth rate.

The political alternatives which this vicious cycle will permit for China’s future are chaos or authoritarianism. Democracy cannot take root in so harsh an environment.

Authoritarianism may be able to break the cycle by drastic means, such as forcible “socialization”. At best, such measures could be put into effect only at heavy and long protracted cost to the whole social structure; at worst they could provoke such rebellion as to recreate a state of chaos.’

As previously posted:

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Interesting piece here.

Our author reviews Evan Osnos’ book about his 8 years spent living on the ground in China:

‘For its part, the government seems to be making efforts to get a grasp on public opinion, though they stem more from its need to buttress its own chances of survival than from any democratic instinct. Attempts at opinion polling have not gone well, mainly because most Chinese are wary about voicing criticism of the government to a stranger on the phone. Nevertheless, there is the sense that the leaders are aware that the ground is shifting. They just don’t know where it is shifting to—and no one else does, either. There is an obsession with establishing the “central melody” of the current culture, but the tune keeps slipping away.’

What’s life like in Beijing for an American editing an English-language Business Magazine?

Interesting quote on author Eveline Chao’s censor:

‘I understood then the mundane nature of all that kept her in place. A job she didn’t like, but worked hard to keep. A system that would never reward her for good work, only punish her for mistakes. And in exchange: Tutors. Traffic. Expensive drumming lessons. They were the same things that kept anyone, anywhere, in place — and it was the very ordinariness of these things that made them intractable.’

Also On This Site: TED Via Youtube: Martin Jacques ‘Understanding The Rise Of China’From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’Repost-From The American Interest Online: Niall Ferguson on ‘What Chimerica Hath Wrought’

Two Links-Brexit & Speech On Campus & Hitchens On Speech Again

Walter Russell Mead At the WSJ (behind a paywall) on European politics and Brexit (British exit from the European Union) below:

One angle: Most technology reduces distances, but not necessarily ignorance, and increases communication, but not necessarily understanding.

The EU started out as a trade union, but also, in seeking to protect its members and advance its interests, has been levying serious fines on American tech companies.  Controlling flows of information upwards towards mercantilism is an obvious result (Eurocrats and big players make and approve the rules, supposedly in favor of ‘the little guy’ but only so far as the moral lights and sentiments of the Eurocrats and big players can envision, if they spend much time envisioning).

These laws tend to be more restrictive than many American laws, but not nearly so restrictive as nearly all Chinese laws, where, apparently, Google has had to make concessions in order to create a search engine alongside the Chinese government.

On speech, and the moral sentiments being animated on parts of many campuses across the country: Greg Lukianoff via Reason: ‘Speech Code Hokey Pokey: How Campus Speech Codes Could Rebound

‘Yesterday, we showed how speech codes are consistently struck down by courts. Today, we look at two ongoing cases that threaten to curb that trend by expanding the doctrine of mootness while narrowing what qualifies to establish standing.’

As posted: Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine interviews Professor Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff on their new book: The Coddling Of The American Mind:  How Good Intentions & Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure

It’s worth revisiting a once very committed Trotskyist who came to the U.S. and quite iconoclastically kept searching for the truth, and on speech, spoke pretty eloquently:

Fire….fire…fire…fire:

A Few More Links On Ferguson On Kissinger And His Idealism

Some interesting takeaways from the interview above (Kissinger was a young man whose family fled the Nazis and who not long after served in the American military, helping to free a concentration camp).

-In writing an entire undergraduate thesis on Kant’s transcendental idealism, Ferguson sketches a Kissinger who bypassed the historical determinism of the Hegelians and the economic determinism of the Marxists.  Freedom has to be lived and experienced to thrive and be understood, and Kant gets closer to championing this conception of individual freedom than do many German thinkers downstream of Kant.

-According to Ferguson, this still tends to make Kissinger an idealist on the idealist/realist foreign policy axis, but it also likely means he’s breaking with the doctrines which animate many on the political Left, hence his often heretical status.

***I’d add that unlike many thinkers in the German philosophical and political traditions, the Anglosphere has economic idealists and various systematists battling other systematists, yes, but there are looser networks of free, civic association and more avoidance of top-down organization and fewer internalized habits of order.

Perhaps such looser civic associations, broad geography and rougher, cruder practices of freedom help keep power and authority dispersed.  Kissinger came closer to being ‘America’s Metternich‘ than have all but a few other actors, and Kant was quite serious in the scope of his metaphysics.

Interesting piece here:

‘The most original and interesting aspect of the biography is Ferguson’s ability to engage with and analyze Kissinger’s ideas as set forth in the voluminous letters, papers, articles, and books written by Kissinger as a student, academic, and policy adviser. According to Ferguson, Kissinger the political philosopher was closer to Kant than Machiavelli. While he admired the brilliance of Metternich and Bismarck, his ideal statesmen (e.g., Castlereagh) sought to construct international orders that did not depend upon a guiding genius for their stability.

He was not, however, a Wilsonian idealist—idealism based on abstraction instead of experience, he believed, was a “prescription for inaction.” “The insistence on pure morality,” Kissinger once told a colleague, “is in itself the most immoral of postures.” Statesmen must act under a cloud of uncertainty and often their decisions reflect a choice among evils.’

As previously posted: – ‘Kissinger: Volume I: The Idealist.1923-1968:’

FT review. 

The Economist

Previously on this site:

Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft here, long before any Iran dealing.

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Francis Fukuyama uses some Hegel and Samuel Huntington…just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke in a strong, libertarian defense of the individual A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

A Few Passing Thoughts On Conceptions Of Liberty Potentially Woven Into Current U.S. Foreign Policy Decisions

Let’s say within Western civilization there are many operational conceptions of liberty, woven into doctrines and movements, internalized into minds and informing various personal decisions (join this group or that-accept this boss’s instructions or not-date this guy/girl over that).

Such conceptions often come into conflict with religious beliefs, self-interest, duties and loyalties to family, to tradition and promises kept as citizens to other citizens.  They also come into conflict with competing factions and rival political interests.

Let’s also say, that, exhausted or not, overextended or not, ’empire’ or not, the United States has serious internal and structural conflicts over operational conceptions of liberty, woven into recent institutional, political and policy decisions.

How such conceptions might be affecting foreign policy is probably worth thinking about.  This blog believes that Barack Obama was a serious shift Leftwards politically, towards a kind of cooled liberation theology, peace idealism and identitarianism with many collectivist elements.  There may be many valid historical reasons for this turn of events (specific and institutional injustices, among others), though I think such a turn came with familiar disagreements over the interests of activist elements butting-heads with a more pragmatic, humanitarian, liberal internationalism.

I believe this has also led to the further disenfranchisement of many Tea-Party Republicans, limited-government supporters, and has helped hasten the profound populist movements within both parties profoundly unhappy with the status quo.

Despite and because of such shifts, it’s interesting to think in terms of what might be staying relatively the same, or at least, more slowly changing within ‘corridors of power.’

There are many legal constraints and similar logistical challenges placed in the lap of any sitting President.  There are unique unforeseen events which come to define any term.

Robert Kagan on American foreign policy similarities moving through time from Bush–>Obama–>Trump.

‘All this began to change as Putin came to worry about his own hold on power in Moscow. He was alarmed by the democratic revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine in 2003 and 2004. But as McFaul notes, it was the disastrous Russian parliamentary elections of 2011 that had the greatest impact. The widespread protests against election irregularities and against Putin’s planned return to the presidency for a third term led him to revive the “old Soviet-era argument as his new source of legitimacy — defense of the motherland against the evil West, and especially the imperial, conniving, threatening United States.”

It seems U.S. foreign policy may be lacking a deeper, strategic vision for our place in the world and our stance towards Russia, in particular, with no end in sight to a divided political and civil debate.

In fact, I don’t know how bad it will get.  Here’s to hoping for the best, and expecting a pretty bad run, and meanwhile, for others in the world to act as they see fit.

What do you know?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

***Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Another favorite of this blog, Kenneth Minogue, tried to identify the connective tissue common to ideology: ‘Alien Powers; The Pure Theory Of Ideology‘.

See Also:  Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?:  The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘  (previews)available.

Huntington’s page at Harvard here.

Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’…Is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

Repost: At Google-Lawrence Wright’s Discussion Of Al Qaeda In ‘The Looming Tower’

Lawrence Wright offered a decent profile of many Al Qaeda top-men in ‘The Looming Tower.

They tended to be smart, educated sorts away from home. Ambitious men with deep grievances and wounded pride. Men seeking purity and strength of purpose, as well as a lost kingdom.

Like many Muslim men relative to those in the West, they’d spent most of their lives segregated from women, with many fewer opportunities to have their educations match a deeper sense of purpose and vocation. These were men, who in that rush of youth, perhaps saw little purpose in merely dedicating their lives to family, work and being connected to others through the kind of civil society and associations we have here in the West.

Of course, some men are pretty sadistic to begin with, but certainly not all.

There was righteous glory to be had, and bloody battles to be fought in driving the infidel from the Arabian peninsula, and eventually Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In fact, most of these men were often exposed to political oppression and brutality within the kinds of States common throughout the Muslim world these days.

As for the new recruits: Some of them had a bomb strapped to them same day. Not much room for franchise growth…in this life!

Wright piece on Al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Some of Roger Scruton’s essays here. Interesting quote in this video, which may line-up with Wright’s observations about the pursuit of purity, and how it tends to end:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project and impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

[Addition]: Of course, what do we do in defense against people who want to kill us where we live, whose ideals are fairly deluded and corrupted from the start?

Related On This Site: From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Repost-Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘A Test Of Tolerance’

Full piece here.

“But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind.”

…’Let us by all means make the “Ground Zero” debate a test of tolerance. But this will be a one-way street unless it is to be a test of Muslim tolerance as well .’

For some in the West, Western institutions are simultaneously the source of all moral injustice in the world and apparently, among the only agents capable of granting moral legitimacy in the world.

If ‘we’ (low buy-in, high cost, the individual never quite defined), simply join movements against the mysterious powers controlling us, towards presumably universal ideals, political ideals, or even towards radical revolution (protests can get violent from time to time)….

…then surely let us welcome Muslims, and much that’s illiberal within Islam, in the radically tolerant, creative, diverse, socially democratic future that awaits.

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea:From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’

What happens when a Canadian imam uses the Canadian Human Rights Commission of Alberta to get as much mileage as he can out of his own absolutist and illiberal tendencies…we don’t need that here:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant

Repost-From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

See Also On This Site: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…From The Middle East Quarterly Via A & L Daily: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic

Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie

Theodore Dalrymple argues that France has the potential to handle Muslim immigration better because of its ideological rigidity, which can better meet the ideological rigidity of its Muslim immigrants…Theodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In Britain

How do you reasonably deal with relativism anyways?: From Virtual Philosophy: A Brief Interview With Simon Blackburn

080405_046 by *chiwai*.

A long time ago, and not so long ago. *chiwai*’s photostream here. Excellent photo.