‘I Am Combing,’ She Whispered, ‘Los Angeles Out Of My Hair.’ Did America Stagnate Economically Around 1972 And Has Its Cultural Avant-Garde Increasingly Become Nihilistic?

Regarding the above conversation between writer Bret Easton Ellis and mathematician Eric Weinstein:  Both men tell coming-of-age tales as Gen Xer’s during the early 1980’s;  a glamourized, somewhat nihilistic youth culture and a deep personal freedom.

I’ve been to L.A. a few times (Raymond Chandler kept me going when I was far away from my language) and David Hockney has captured some of the light and landscape of that particular place.

We all have likely have some contact with Los Angeles through the movies, and particular stylized visions of it:

It can seem vapid and empty; fake and dark.

Sometimes, the hills burn:

‘I am combing,’ she whispered, ‘Los Angeles out of my hair.’

Here’s Tom Wolfe, referring to Californians in this piece by Michael Anton:

‘Noyce was like a great many bright young men and women from Dissenting Protestant families in the Middle West after the Second World War. They had been raised as Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, United Brethren, whatever. They had been led through the Church door and prodded toward religion, but it had never come alive for them. Sundays made their skulls feel like dried-out husks. So they slowly walked away from the church and silently, without so much as a growl of rebellion, congratulated themselves on their independence of mind and headed into another way of life. Only decades later, in most cases, would they discover how, absentmindedly, inexplicably, they had brought the old ways along for the journey nonetheless. It was as if . . . through some extraordinary mistake . . . they had been sewn into the linings of their coats!

Does L.A. or the music made there even have a center?:

More broadly, in interacting with many Millenials I often find myself thinking: What the hell happened to a rough and ready sense of independence, freedom and responsibility? Am I alone in my deeper sense of patriotism, gratitude and a skepticism regarding the new, emergent rules?

Freedom of Speech!  America!

Whatever,’ comes the reply.  ‘We’ll see.

Am I just living in a post-60’s and post-Boomer bubble myself?  To some extent, yes.

Generation Birth Years
Silent Generation 1925-1945
Boomers 1946-1964
Gen X 1965-1979
Millenials 1980-1995
Next 1996-

Weinstein’s argument as I understand it:  Something fundamental shifted around 1972 in American economic and institutional life.  It’s when a previously more explosive rate of economic growth stalled.  Since that time, most folks within our academic, cultural and political institutions simply haven’t adjusted.

It’s harder to get into many housing markets now, and it’s harder to compete with global labor for jobs and academic positions.  Our current politics is a clown-show (for many reasons). Much stagnation has ensued, and many of our current institutional hierarchies might just possess dark, unspoken ponzi knowledge at their hearts.

The sooner you got in, the better off you are.

If such a theory be true, these conditions can easily erode a basic sense of fairness, institutional trust and continuity.  This could allow more space for the postmodern and nihilist drift both men discuss, and the growing desire for (S)elves looking for (C)ommunities and rules.  EQUALITY now.  More space for Socialism.  Anarchy.  More space for a retreat from the public square into one’s family and church.

Such a theory just might also stroke the egos of people who think of themselves as relatively independent, such as myself.

Dear Reader, I’ve got to watch out for that.  I like to think of myself as ahead of some curves.

Weinstein:

‘Increasingly the research seemed to show that interventions by government, universities and industry in the US labor market for scientists, especially after the University system stopped growing organically in the early 1970s were exceedingly problematic.’

A few more thoughts and personal experiences as an undergraduate English major which support the theory:  There were plenty of talented undergrads, sure, but there were also clearly not enough slots to develop and mature their talents within the institutions.

A writing MFA?  Don’t be a sucker.

The older the professor, usually the more rigorous and focused the teaching.  The higher the expectations and the less existential questions of pedagogy there were.  Fewer ontological questions of Self in the World emerged as confessional blank verse and personalized syllabi.

Later on, briefly (you should be as happy as I am I’m not a lawyer), I saw legal education displaying similar troubling trends, even though law requires a clearer logical and objective rigor:  All the top-tier law grads were vying for teaching spots at second and third-tier law schools.  If you started at a second or third-tier law school….good luck.

Don’t be a sucker, now.  Find your (S)elf.  Freedom is next.

A Bit Apart, But Still Standing Around Hoping Many People Would Hesitate More Often-A Few Links And Thoughts On Leo Strauss and Rene Girard

One major shift in my thinking occurred while reading Leo Strauss, and approaching Nature from a position where the reason/revelation distinction was suddenly in play:

‘Strauss was a Jew who promoted a pre-Christian, classical understanding of “natural right” as found in Plato and Aristotle. Yet after the publication of his Natural Right and History in 1953, Strauss was sometimes classed alongside Catholic scholars of political philosophy who aimed to revive the natural law tradition of Aquinas. Strauss recognized that these Thomists were fighting some of the same battles against historicists and philosophical modernists that he was fighting. Nonetheless, his own position was quite distinct from theirs. Natural right, unlike natural law, is changeable and dependent on circumstance for its expression, says Strauss. As he puts it: “There is a universally valid hierarchy of ends, but there are no universally valid rules of action.”

Such thinking made me question many modern epistemological foundations I had been taking for granted: Perhaps (H)istory doesn’t necessarily have a clear end, no more than does any one of our lives (other than a death forever beyond our full imagining).  Perhaps (H)istory is long, often bloody, and takes a lot of work to understand.

Nature, too, in its depth and majesty, often Romanticized and Idealized by many moderns (collectivists and Hippies, especially), can be terrible, cruelly indifferent and the source of much of our suffering.  These debates are old, and deep, so why not return to many original thinkers like Plato and Aristotle?

Politically and socially, I suddenly doubted that we’re necessarily heading towards knowable ends, individuals achieving a kind of virtue in declaring loyalty to the latest moral idea, protest movement, or political cause.  Progress is complicated.

[Although] the (S)ciences are so successful in describing and explaining the Natural World, such knowledge can’t simply be transferred and implemented into policy and law, a bureaucracy and a technocracy [full of] of people who are often not even scientists.  Perhaps there are many modern fictions abroad.

The more individuals are either liberated or freed (from tradition, from moral obligations to family and friends, from insitutions, from religious belief) it doesn’t necessarily follow such freedoms will be used wisely.

In fact, some individuals are clearly coalescing around narrow, totalitarian ideologies and failed theories of History through the road of radical chic (Marxism, Communism, Socialism).  Other individuals are exploiting our current insitutional failures in favor of political extremism (alt-right and alt-left) while yet others are spending their formative years flirting with nihilism and anarchy in the postmodern soup.

Cycles of utopianism/dystopianism, and idealism don’t necessarily lead to stability, and more liberty.

Where I might agree with the moderns: I do think that Man’s reason, individual men’s use of mathematics applied to the physical world, sometimes occurring in flashes of profound insight, often after years of study and labor within and perhaps outside of a particular field, are tied to a reality which empirically exists.  One could do a lot worse than the best of the Natural Philosopher.

It typically takes years to imbibe the necessary and often counter-intuitive tools to ‘see under the hood’ of Nature.  Then, it often takes very long and close observation to make some kind of contribution.  Unlike the Oakeshottian critique of rationalism in favor of tradition, I do think there are gains in basic competency from an education in the sciences that are not exclusive solely to the genius.  Some of this can scale. Many laymen can become aware of how deterministic and probabilistically accurate these laws govern the world in which we live.

To be sure, we are undergoing a renaissance in certain fields:  A technological revolution in our pockets and work lives, an explosion in space science, for starters.


As to my view of human nature, and a depressive realism, often informed by the humanites:

There’s something about Rene Girard’s work that strikes deep chords within me. I must confess, though, as a non-believer, I remain skeptical that a lot of Christianity isn’t Platonic Idealism + Synthesized Judaism + Transcendent Claims to Truth & Knowledge that gained ascendance within the Roman Empire.  My ignorance shows.

A Christian and religious believer, Girard synthesizes psychology, literature, history, anthropology and philosophy along with his Christian faith into something quite profound.

Recommended.  The mimetic theory of [desire] can really can change how you think about the world:

A briefer introduction here:

Girard and Libertarian thought?:

The closest I come to religious belief: Writers and musicians, at a certain point, give themselves over to their own mysterious, seemingly inexplicable, creative processes. If you practice enough (muscle memory), play your instrument alone and play with others, counting the time signature, you can makes sounds in time which express something deep about our condition, sharing it with others.

Even after the well runs dry, creative artists often go back to the bottom, finding themselves spent.  The stronger the emotional loss and more real the pain; often this translates into the pleasure others take in your creation.  But what is it you’re sharing exactly, from mind to mind and person to person?

This [can] produce something like a divine, God-worshipping, vulnerable state of mind and being, which is just as dangerous and corrupting as it is bonding and enriching.  From Bach, to Prince, to now even Kanye West, apparently, religion can suddenly sweep into the gap.

Of course, studying and playing music is a conscious, reasoned process, more than many people know, but it also, very clearly isn’t entirely planned in the moment of its synthesis and creation.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

I’m missing a lot, here, folks, but doing my best with current resources.  Thanks, as always, for reading.

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

Repost-Some Quotations From Leo Strauss On Edmund Burke In ‘Natural Right And History’

From Nextbook: Philosopher Of Science Hilary Putnam On The Jewish Faith

Postmodern Pushback-Some New Links & Lots Of Old Links Gathered Throughout The Years

Thinking, Speaking & Believing In the Postmodern Landscape-Some Gathered Links

One path through the postmodern landscape lies in cultivating some appreciation for math and the sciences, direct observation and statistical analysis within the social sciences, and plumbing the depths of a good humanities education (you know, the stuff universities pretty much ought to be teaching).

Receiving or pursuing such an education doesn’t necessarily require religious belief, nor does it necessarily dislodge religious belief.

Aside from the craziness of love, dedication to family, the pressures of work and career, the inevitably of sickness and death, such cultivation can prevent against the sublimity of nihilist and existentialist despair, the Romance of collective primitivism, and the dangers of ideological possession (quick to judge, quick to be judged, forever resentful).

Many readers of this blog don’t necessarily share my views on the importance of limited government and economic growth, tolerance for religious belief and skepticism regarding political idealism (joining an ‘-Ism’ is only the beginning, as hopes soon follow into politics and visions of the good, the true and the beautiful).

You have your reasons.

In the meantime, here are some links gathered over the years from the New Atheists and many independent-minded thinkers of the Left pushing against many excesses of the American and Global Left.

It’s pretty clear to me that many mainstream publications and political debates occur downstream of many intellectual debates.

-An Oldie But A Goodie, Hitchens on Speech:

The Brothers Weinstein are pretty smart-Repost-Moving Towards Truth And Liberty, But What To Conserve?-Some Thoughts On The Bret & Eric Weinstein Interview

A Few Recycled Thoughts On That Sam Harris & Ezra Klein Debate-IQ Is Taboo

-James Lindsay offers a cogent account of his experiences in the Atheism movement, and the emergence of Atheism Plus.  He attempts to use moral psychology (he mentions Jonathan Haidt) to explain many religious-seeming elements of the woke, social justice crowd.

-Larry Arnhart, of Darwinian Conservatism, continued his careful reading of Jonathan Haidt’s work, to which Haidt responded.

-Daniel Dennett from 1998: Postmodernism and Truth

-You’ve got to watch out for human nature, and yourselves-From Slate Star Codex: ‘I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup’

-Martha Nussbaum on Judith Butler: ‘The Professor Of Parody

-Heck, even the computational, rational elements of Noam Chomsky’s thought provided him skeptical distance from postmodern jargon, despite the ‘anarcho-syndicalism’ and relentless post-socialist anti-Americanism: The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

-Philosophical Idealism vs Empiricism: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

Roger Scruton (not of The Left, and not an Atheist):

So, what is all this Nothing-ness about? ‘My view’, says Scruton, ‘is that what’s underlying all of this is a kind of nihilistic vision that masks itself as a moving toward the enlightened future, but never pauses to describe what that society will be like. It simply loses itself in negatives about the existing things – institutional relations like marriage, for instance – but never asks itself if those existing things are actually part of what human beings are. Always in Zizek there’s an assumption of the right to dismiss them as standing in the way of something else, but that something else turns out to be Nothing.’

Some Thoughts On That Camille Paglia Write-Up At The City Journal-Cosmic Reality? Also, Her Interview With Jordan Peterson

Lindsay also mentions the Stephen Hicks/Thaddeus Russell debate: ‘Postmodernism Is Necessary For A Politics Of Individual Liberty

Solving For Excessive Egalitarianism Within The Hollowed-Out Bowl Produced By Analytic Philosophy & Postmodern Nihilism? This & Other Fun Links

-Tony Daniel at The Federalist on Anthony Kronman’s new book ‘The Assault On American Excellence

Hmmm…:

‘So here’s a second opinion on Kronman’s diagnosis: The disease that afflicts the American academy is not caused by the pathogen of egalitarianism from without. It is a cancer produced by the excesses of analytic philosophy and structuralist thinking within.’

I really like this line (could be more of a writer problem…writers can become reclusive weirdos, but still telling nonetheless):

‘It says something that the most normal professor I encountered in graduate school was the extremely odd and reclusive aesthetician and novelist William H. Gass.’

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…’

Alas, this blog has been writing about such issues for over a decade, and I’ve been thinking about them for more than two decades:  Should You Bother To Get A Liberal Arts Education? Allan Bloom, Camille Paglia and Anthony Kronman

Repost-From Scientific Blogging: ‘The Humanities Are In Crisis-Science Is Not’

Click here for a quite a varied discussion of Allan Bloom’s surprise 1987 bestseller: ‘The Closing Of The American Mind

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

Related On This Site:

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

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

Other links for your pleasure:

-Via Triggernometry: Can We Stop Terrorism and What Do Islamists Want? But what do they really want? Conflicted, Thomas Small and Aiman Dean’s podcast seems worth a listen.

-Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay at The City Journal:  ‘Conversing In An Age Of Accusation‘.  It’s something, anyways.

I’ve often thought that many New Atheists, liberal idealists, progressives and radicals overlook the inherent dangers of human ignorance, the need to believe and the semi-permanence of people committed to radical ideology.  The sciences and social sciences are being asked to bear a tremendous pressure as a result.  Sure, religious believers disagree with, and have a long record of persecuting free-thinkers, scientists and natural philosophers, but actual terrorists and radicals are being normalized under the banner of liberal idealism.  I doubt this bodes well.

Whenever and wherever there are thoughtful, reasonable people, I support them: Dog Park Blues-Link To A James Lindsay Interview

-A bit of sad news from Jordan Peterson.  The man’s very honest about that which it can’t be easy to be honest.

 

Repost: Clive James At The Prospect On Joseph Conrad-Some Links

James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works.

Of note to this blogger:

‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’

Clive James’ site here.

Michael Dirda on ‘Clive James Last Readings’ review: A Critic’s Final Homage To Literature, Life:’

‘In 30 brief essays James goes on to tell us — in his most digressive, conversational manner — about the books he’s discovered or returned to quite probably for the last time.’

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

Not entirely unrelated:

John Gray begins a discussion of his book ‘The Silence Of Animals‘ with a quote from Conrad:

————————————-

Added bonus if you act now in the face of no possible objective knowledge.

Part of Bryan Magee’s series:

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

Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic.

Related On This Site: From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’.

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy..

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?’

 

Four Poems & A Short Story Collected Throughout The Years-Aging

Men At Forty

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practises tying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of the father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

Donald Justice

IV

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

William Butler Yeats

Whole poem here (Vacillation).

An Old Man

In the inner room of the noisy café
an old man sits bent over a table;
a newspaper before him, no companion beside him.

And in the scorn of his miserable old age,
he meditates how little he enjoyed the years
when he had strength, the art of the word, and good looks.

He knows he has aged much; he is aware of it, he sees it,
and yet the time when he was young seems like
yesterday. How short a time, how short a time.

And he ponders how Wisdom had deceived him;
and how he always trusted her—what folly!—
the liar who would say, “Tomorrow. You have ample time.”

He recalls impulses he curbed; and how much
joy he sacrificed. Every lost chance
now mocks his senseless prudence.

…But with so much thinking and remembering
the old man reels. And he dozes off
bent over the table of the café.

C.P. Cavafy (translation from the Greek found here).

The Old Fools

What do they think has happened, the old fools,
To make them like this? Do they somehow suppose
It’s more grown-up when your mouth hangs open and drools,
And you keep on pissing yourself, and can’t remember
Who called this morning? Or that, if they only chose,
They could alter things back to when they danced all night,
Or went to their wedding, or sloped arms some September?
Or do they fancy there’s really been no change,
And they’ve always behaved as if they were crippled or tight,
Or sat through days of thin continuous dreaming
Watching the light move? If they don’t (and they can’t), it’s strange;
                               Why aren’t they screaming?

At death you break up: the bits that were you
Start speeding away from each other for ever
With no one to see. It’s only oblivion, true:
We had it before, but then it was going to end,
And was all the time merging with a unique endeavour
To bring to bloom the million-petalled flower
Of being here. Next time you can’t pretend
There’ll be anything else. And these are the first signs:
Not knowing how, not hearing who, the power
Of choosing gone. Their looks show that they’re for it:
Ash hair, toad hands, prune face dried into lines –
                               How can they ignore it?

Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside your head, and people in them, acting
People you know, yet can’t quite name; each looms
Like a deep loss restored, from known doors turning,
Setting down a lamp, smiling from a stair, extracting
A known book from the shelves; or sometimes only
The rooms themselves, chairs and a fire burning,
The blown bush at the window, or the sun’s
Faint friendliness on the wall some lonely
Rain-ceased midsummer evening. That is where they live:
Not here and now, but where all happened once.
                              This is why they give

An air of baffled absence, trying to be there
Yet being here. For the rooms grow farther, leaving
Incompetent cold, the constant wear and tear
Of taken breath, and them crouching below
Extinction’s alp, the old fools, never perceiving
How near it is. This must be what keeps them quiet:
The peak that stays in view wherever we go
For them is rising ground. Can they never tell
What is dragging them back, and how it will end? Not at night?
Not when the strangers come? Never, throughout
The whole hideous inverted childhood? Well,
                             We shall find out.

Philip Larkin

It’s barely twelve pages long, dear reader.

What are you doing with your time and imagination?

You’re fine, Mr. Corte.  In fact, you’re looking a little better than yesterday…:

‘Giuseppe Corte didn’t need anything, but he began to chat freely with the young woman, asking for information about the clinic. In this way, he learned about the hospital’s unique practice of assigning its patients to different floors in accordance with the gravity of their illness. On the seventh floor, the top floor, only the very mildest cases were treated. Those whose forms of the illness weren’t grave, but who certainly couldn’t be neglected, were assigned to the sixth floor. More serious infections were treated on the fifth floor, and so on and so forth. Gravely ill patients were housed on the second floor; and on the first floor, those for whom all hope had been abandoned.’

You probably spent a lot of energy when younger, wishing to be older, and as you get older, find yourself spending time wishing you were younger.

 

Repost-A Few Links On Trilling

A return to ‘high liberal’ criticism would be nice, out of the valley of postmodern darkness…:

Paul Dean on Lionel Trilling:

‘His own description of his modus operandi was “the genre of discourse.” He is a synthesizer rather than an analyst, operating in the field of the history of ideas. He is as likely to write about Hegel, Marx, and Freud as he is about Jane Austen, Keats, and Flaubert (whose Bouvard et Pécuchet he is almost alone in recognizing as a masterpiece).’

and

‘It’s easy to see why Trilling is neglected. His belief in the value of a traditional liberal humane education is abhorrent to current fashions. He saw Structuralism, which surfaced late in his career, as a literary variant of Stalinism, subordinating individual autonomy and freedom to the demands of a collective. His experience of the 1968 student protests at Columbia (which, according to his wife, he found oddly exhilarating) surfaces in only one letter printed by Kirsch, in which he tells Pamela Hansford Johnson that, angry as he is at the students’ behavior, many of those he has talked to “command my respect and even liking. I would find it easier to be simple, but I cannot be.”

As posted:

Trilling’s Tutelage:’

‘Then came the 1960s. Through this decade Trilling walked an exquisitely fine line. He dined at the White House with John and Jackie Kennedy. His very name was associated with the word liberal, and that was the problem in the sixties. Trilling was the kind of centrist Cold War liberal against whom the decade’s radicals defined themselves. It was Trilling’s peculiar destiny to protect and defend the novels and poetry of the Victorians, among others, in the Age of Aquarius. When the Columbia campus rose up in protest in the spring of 1968, Trilling symbolized the liberal old guard’

and:

‘Contemporary liberalism does not depreciate emotion in the abstract, and in the abstract it sets great store by variousness and possibility. Yet, as is true of any other human entity, the conscious and the unconscious life of liberalism are not always in accord. So far as liberalism is active and positive, so far, that is, as it moves toward organization, it tends to select the emotions and qualities that are most susceptible of organization. As it carries out its active and positive ends it unconsciously limits its view of the world to what it can deal with, and it unconsciously tends to develop theories and principles, particularly in relation to the nature of the human mind, that justify its limitation.’

Trilling, Lionel. The Liberal Imagination: Essays On Literature And Society. The Viking Press: New York, 1950. (preface xiii).

Trilling and Nabokov at last!:

Other odds and ends:

Oliver Traldi at Quillete reviews Mark Lilla- ‘The Once And Future Liberal: After Identity Politics

‘Lilla’s own explanation of his liberalism, given by the book’s structure, is that politics is liberal by definition.

and:

‘Lilla clearly thinks he is making a pragmatic case, but he does not engage with any empirical political science; no numbers of any kind—polls, turnout, what have you—appear in the book.’

Another view of the 60’s and Yale: Repost-A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

Martha Nussbaum had a rather profound take via this review of ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

Nicholas C Burbules on her book:

“Between these two lines of attack, she believes, the university must articulate a conception of itself that defends the standards of reason, while remaining open to new points of view; that preserves the intellectual traditions and canons that define U.S. culture, while consciously broadening the curriculum to expose students to traditions which diverge from their own and which, in their difference, may confront students with an awareness of their own parochialism; that remain respectful and tolerant of many points of view without lapsing into relativism; and in short, that manages to prepare students simultaneously to be citizens of U.S. society, and cosmopolitans, “citizens of the world.’

I have doubts about this vision…

Wednesday Quotation-T.S. Eliot

‘What I have to say is largely in support of the following proposition: Literary criticism should be completed by criticism from a definitive ethical and theological standpoint.’

Eliot, T.S. Selected Prose Of T.S. Eliot. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1975. Print.

Essay here.

Addition:  Maybe, just maybe, as a friend points out.  Compared to the current radical models clamoring for the syllabus, such a suggestion has become radical.

Romancing The Stones-Your Day In The Barrel: A Few Links On Roger Scruton & The Lottery

Roger Scruton discusses being recently misrepresented in the pages of a major publication, effectively purging him from an unpaid government architectural committee job.

So it is:

Tim Hunt was a witch.   Larry Summers, briefly became a witch.

Come to think of it, Charles Murray and the Middlebury College administrator he rode in on:  Definitely witches:

On a semi-related note, a reader points out that a major flaw in utilitarian logic (attached to probably the most comprehensive moral liberal philosophy thought and written) might find some expression in Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery.

Dear Reader, I’m not entirely persuaded while skimming Jackson’s story. The townsfolk didn’t necessarily have stated reasons for their collective act, other than ‘this is the way we’ve always done things.’  That’s kind of the point, which is to say people don’t always have have good points for long-established traditions, but many rocks do.

The people claiming sound reasons and empirical evidence for creating national seatbelt laws to save the lives of X number of citizens had, well, a lot of empirical evidence.  One visualization technique, as I understand it, to aid in this particular critique of utilitarian logic involves building a machine in the town square, which will, with good evidence, save about twenty lives a year.

The problem is you’ve got to feed one person into it every year.

This machine is working for other towns, though.  In fact, it’s so important it’s become law for all towns.  Regional machines will be necessary.  Have you guys visited The Machine in D.C.?

Thousands saved.

Come to think of it, maybe I could see the selection process being somewhat akin to what occurred in The Lottery.  People haven’t changed much and most of the village elders run on how well The Machine is run.

It’s just a new tradition.

Sound logic?

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

Charles Murray’s Account Of The Middlebury College Affair

Link To Roger Scruton’s First Of Three Charles Test Lectures Hosted By Princeton University

From The Internet Encyclopedia Of Knowledge: Immanuel Kant And Utilitarianism

Repost-Five Short Stories Likely Worth Your Time

I claim no special literary insight, other than these five short stories have stuck with me, as they have for many other readers besides. Links included.

——————–

1. ‘Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story Of Wall Street

Herman Melville

Catch-up with Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut; their daily routines at the office.

Our narrator:

‘I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquillity of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method.’

We all want to be alone, and to be with others, and Bartleby…Bartleby would just prefer not to:

‘Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!  ‘

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2. ‘An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

Ambrose Bierce

As they were for many other high-school boys, the first lines were enough for me:

‘A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck.’

Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man?

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3. ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge

Flannery O’Connor

O’Connor’s Southern Gothic style often flirts with the grotesque, and can traffic in the macabre, but there’s reason behind it, and a brilliantly skeptical, humane eye.  Few writers get so many things right, in my opinion.

The world is changing, and so is the South.

Julian’s mother is living in the past:

‘They had reached the bus stop. There was no bus in sight and Julian, his hands still jammed in his pockets and his head thrust forward, scowled down the empty street. The frustration of having to wait on the bus as well as ride on it began to creep up his neck like a hot hand. The presence of his mother was borne in upon him as she gave a pained sigh. He looked at her bleakly. She was holding herself very erect under the preposterous hat, wearing it like a banner of her imaginary dignity. There was in him an evil urge to break her spirit. He suddenly unloosened his tie and pulled it off and put it in his pocket’

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4. ‘A Distant Episode

Paul Bowles

A lot can be ‘swallowed’ up in the desert, lost in translation; across time, language and civilizations.

Things don’t always end well for the intellectually curious and naive…:

‘It occurred to him that he ought to ask himself why he was doing this irrational thing, but he was intelligent enough to know that since he Was doing it, it was not so important to probe for explanations at that moment.’

Let’s leave it at that.

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5. ‘Araby

James Joyce

To what does a man put his hopes?

But such wonderful writing:

‘When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed.’