Everyone’s A Victim, No One’s A Victim-James Lindsay On Critical Methods: Some Links And Thoughts

James Lindsay at New Discourses discusses Critical Methods.  He describes Critical Theory as a ‘solvent’ eating away at our civilizational foundations.  It certainly has done a number on our humanities departments.

Whatever your thoughts on freedom of assembly, the idealization of protest, secular humanism and liberal idealism, it is pretty easy to destroy, and very hard to create.

The pushback is coming from more liberal quarters, now:

I’d argue that what you see in the streets, a devolution of Civil Rights idealism and the protest model, is now more visibly a collection of various radical ideologies, discontented groups and individuals with their own interests and reasons.  You also have the postmodern focus on ‘feeling’ coalescing into vaguely religious campaigns to unite and purify the public square.

To some degree, critical theorists and ‘studies’ tribalists leave mob violence, collectivist and identity groups gathering against the ‘oppressor’, expendable facts and an assumption that all laws are illegimate in their wake.

As a young man, Roger Scruton watched the Generation of ’68 go by, gathering anger and righteousness with them through the streets of Paris.

‘In the narrow street below my window the students were shouting and smashing.’

Many are still passing by our windows, so to speak, heading to some undetermined point in the future.

Here’s to hoping we can reclaim a humanties education from the ‘critical theorists,’ the postmodern mystics and irrationalists, and the ‘studies’ tribalists.

‘The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool.’

George Santayana.

As I’ve been called a ‘postmodern conservative’, here’s an interesting piece from Matt McManus at Quillette: ‘Understanding Postmodern Conservatism: A Response To Aaron Hanlon:

‘…I do not believe postmodern conservatism emerged in a historical or ideological vacuum. It is not just the product of contemporary postmodern culture, which provided the necessary but not sufficient conditions for postmodern conservatism’s emergence. Rather, certain strands of conservative thinking that—while not in themselves postmodern—have nevertheless recently mutated into postmodern form. The two most prominent of these are Burkean historicism and De Maistrean irrationalism.’

and:

‘Theorists of postmodern culture…argue that the emergence of postmodern skepticism indicates a broader cultural shift within developed societies. What Jameson calls ‘postmodern culture’ is characterized by growing social skepticism about the stability of truth claims in general, but particularly truth claims related to identity and values.’

Personally, I remain open to much skepticism and many critiques of many parts of the ‘modern’ project.  I find myself interested in people providing reasons to support various traditions (music, art), religious faith (wouldn’t call myself a believer), patriotism (haven’t served, but necessary to the survival of our Republic) and rule of law (even more necessary to the survival of our Republic).

I think all of the above deserve a fair hearing.

Hmmm…I’m not sure the roots of Kant’s profound empirical realism and transcendental idealism has been addressed.   A reader sends a link:

Did Kant really address why his own metaphysical system is necessary as charting a course for possible human knowledge? Warnock states that Kant thought:

“All we can establish foundations for is the notion of possible experience and what can be an object of possible experience…”

In other words, physics can tell you all kinds of things about energy, but it can’t tell you what energy is.

The problem of how a judgment can be synthetic and a priori, then, presents itself to Kant as the problem of how two concepts, neither of which includes the other, can be connected in a way which does not rest upon past experience and is not vulnerable to future experience.”

Page 23 of ‘Kant’s Analytic‘ by Jonathan Bennett

In a way, metaphysics may be just where Aristotle left it, or where someone like Roger Penrose leaves it (after a lifetime of applying deep mathematical thinking to physical theory in his work on black holes): An exercise in trying to develop firm footing for our knowledge after the fact…trying to provide some context for our knowledge and not being able to do so…yet…

Addition: Of course, this doesn’t nullify the depth of Kant’s contributions, nor the depth of his moral theory. It just may not make it a moral law in the same sense as Newton’s laws (deeper laws have already come along) . I dug up one side of this exchange from the Bloggingheads Sentimental Mood Jesse Prinz Edition. So just because Kant didn’t perhaps validate his project as he’d have hoped, it doesn’t follow that you need to embrace some moral relativism as does Prinz:

—————-

1. If there are facts of a certain sort (chemical, biological, psychological, moral, whatever) which may be true true, even though everyone thinks they are false, then facts of this sort (chemical, biological, etc.) must never change.

The trouble is that you yourself don’t actually believe this principle. For example, geographical facts are clearly objectively true — even if everyone believes in El Dorado, El Dorado doesn’t exist; and even if no one believed in Everest, Everest still would exist. But it’s obvious that it doesn’t follow that geographical facts don’t change over time. Mountains and polar ice caps and rivers come and go. Geographical facts change all the time — it’s just that our beliefs don’t change them.

Perhaps your point is, not that the geographical facts don’t change, but rather that the geological laws don’t change. But at a certain level even this isn’t true: Plate Tectonics fits the earth over most of its history, but it doesn’t exactly fit the earth when it was molten or when it eventually cools down completely in the distant future. It doesn’t fit the moon or Jupiter. Perhaps at a high level of abstraction, we can imagine a final theory of planetary geography that fits ALL types of planets anywhere in the universe. Perhaps these very abstract laws don’t themselves vary (once there are any planets to talk about).

But if you make the moral law sufficiently abstract, it can be as unvarying as any laws of universal planetology. Utilitarianism is the theory that there is a rather abstract law of morality, which, though it does not vary, accounts for why seemingly quite different things can be right or wrong in different circumstances (e.g., why leaving your elderly to die may have been OK for the Eskimos in conditions of scarcity while it would be very wrong for us).

Below is some criticism of Scruton from a Kantian-Friesian line of thinking.

Is there a turn back towards the Hegelian ‘we’ from the Kantian ‘I?’

Scruton’s attractive and practical deployment of the ‘lebenswelt’ in describing the day to day relationships in which we find ourselves (a tissue of contingencies, possibilities and ‘I’ ‘thou’ relationships) provides robust criticism of the totalitarian ideologies and scientism of post-Enlightenment ideological utopians.  This has been highly valuable and rather courageous.

Are the potentially Hegelian dangers to abstract, absolutize and collectivize still present?

‘Now, I think that this is an accurate and honest presentation of Wittgenstein’s thought, except perhaps for the notion of “an independent world,” which sounds like a metaphysical assertion; but it also makes it look like Roger Scruton has fallen into the same kind of dark well as the “nonsense machine” of post-modernism that he examined in his other book.

First of all, if we have decided that the “emphasis” of Frege on truth is now to be replaced with the “more fundamental demand” that our language conform to “correctness,” alarm bells should go off. There is in fact nothing more fundamental than truth, if we are talking about knowledge or logic (and not just “communication”); and “correctness” could mean anything, varying with the standard that is applied to judge it. But we quickly get what the standard of “correctness” is, and that is the “common usage” that has “created the rules,” outside of which we cannot “look,” to govern our linguistic practice. These are rules that the invididual cannot decide for himself but that somehow “we,” collectively, in our “form of life” have created.

Key points there are that the autonomous individual and the “independent world” have both dropped out of the treatment. Scruton, as we might suspect for a Hegelian, does not speak up for the individual, but even his explicit invocation of the “independent world” is immediately voided by the assertion that only language itself, in its practice, correctness, and form of life, determines what is going to stand as the equivalent of truth. Thus, the chilling absurdity is that “the ultimate facts are language,” while, naively, we might think that facts are characteristics of the “independent world” that determine truth, as the Early Wittgenstein himself had said. In an objective world without facts, language is the substitute (whose status is somehow established by facts about the world).’

What are some dangers of the projects of reason in the wake of the Enlightenment, or stretching post-Enlightenment reason into a replacement for God, tradition, and Natural Law: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Trolley Problems, Utilitarian Logic, Liberty, Self-Defense & Property

Leo Strauss tried to tackle that problem, among others with the reason/revelation distinction, did he succeed? How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Addition: As a friend points out: Strauss is trying to get around the 2nd Nietzschean crisis of modernity, and the cinching and tightening of moral, political, and philosophical thinking into only an Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment pursuit of truth under Reason alone. The Natural Right and Natural Law Philosophies, including and a pursuit of the truth which can involve religion (Augustine?), or Greek conceptions of the good and the true as applied to the city-state vastly broaden and prevent the inherent nihilism in these waves of modernity as Strauss saw them…historicism being one of these Enlightenment pursuits, from political science to the social sciences to Hegelian and post-Hegelian historicism…the logic is followed to its inherently nihilistic ends. This poses a threat to individual liberty among other things…

Related:  It’s the fierce critic of religion, new Atheist, and 68er Christopher Hitchens who has defended free speech most vigorously:  Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

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

Don’t get Borked, at least if you’re openly religious and aiming for higher office:  Bork had his own view of the 1960′s: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

A Link On China, Crazy Days In Seattle & Some Tornadoes-Oh, There Will Be Rules

I imagine maintaining legitimate authority over a civilization with a Han Chinese core, new wealth and a lot of poorer, more traditional, family based ‘units’ (collectivism dies hard) isn’t easy.  Add in a vast, geographical area containing various religious and ethnic groups spread over the boundaries of ancient empires.

Whoever’s in charge will have to deal with a declining birth rate, while still promising rapid economic growth and a lavish lifestyle; a piece of the pie distributed through a lot of top-down private and public control, all led by an currently authoritarian, strong-man Communist apparatus that never really went away.

I could easily see how party messaging enhances Nationalist identity against enemies foreign (Korea, Japan, Russia, the U.S.) and domestic (traitors, the insufficiently loyal).

Belt and road politics is global, and the way many in China view their role in the world is not necessarily how we in the West view the world.

This is a clear potential source of conflict:

Having a lot of people unifying around the ideals of racism (the ‘-Isms) and equality, often with a kind of religious fervor, is pretty common these days, but what if you disagree?  What about violence?  How do these ideals work in the practice of creating or maintaining legitimate authority?

Alas, it’s Seattle.

The price of ‘integrating’ radicals who believe very little in any legitimate authority usually means buying off those radicals (playing the politics game very well) with public monies and shiny new programs.

It’s better to think of radicals as cult members, really.   True-beliving, intolerant, crazed cult members, unable to live a world with different experiences from their own, nor differences of thought, opinion and behavior.

What could go wrong with inmates running the asylum?

Oh, there will be rules-New liberty away from Hobbes…rule-following punishers?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

That’s about as close as I’ve seen anyone get!

Moving along, are you into tornadoes, and maybe interested in gathering some useful data along the way?

Watch the video below.

Help build better models. The better understood the variables, the better the models become, and the more predictive they become.

Accurate prediction[s] save lives:

Take People Guided By Ideas At Their Word, And When They Don’t Allow Your Words, You’ve Been Warned

Good For Harpers and the signatories.

From Harpers:  A Letter On Justice and Open Debate

As to some responses to the responses: The Weinsteins are ahead of a likely new Left, supporting freer speech and thought, the pursuit of truth and new knowledge through the sciences, but also visions of sometimes drastic and radical social change (they’re on the Left).

I find myself somewhat sympathetic to their outside-looking-in critiques of much insitutional overbuild as well as those rolling over on speech (many in our universities, many in our media outlets, many in HR departments, many in our bureaucracies).

It would have taken very strong individuals and principled leadership in our institutions to resist much decay, inertia and bad incentives, apart from the radical speech capture, but here we are.

From the quite libertarian Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution:

The actual problem is that we have a new bunch of “speech regulators” (not in the legal sense, not usually at least) who are especially humorless and obnoxious and I would say neurotic — in the personality psychology sense of that word. I say let’s complain about the real problem, namely the moral fiber, emotional temperaments, and factual worldviews of the individuals who have arrogated the new speech censorship functions to themselves.

Many middle-of-the-road folks carrying something (a marriage, a job, reasonable thoughts, military duty, kids, a spot on the school board), seem to be realizing that many radicals driving social change aren’t necessarily leading us to a better place, but are leading us to a different place, which can include justified violence, mob logic, as well as speech and thought prohibitions.

Rod Dreher, writing for a liberal newsroom audience and a deeply religious audience, generally from the Right, on the Harper’s letter here:

Overall it’s a good letter. As I said, the people who signed it range from the center to various reaches of the Left. It’s exactly the kind of thing that people of the Right ought to welcome from men and women of good faith to our Left.

Take people guided by ideas at their word, and when they don’t allow your words, you’ve been warned.

You don’t want to sin against the Church Of Secular Human Justice and The Right Political Opinions.

They are always with us, as are many of the same impulses within us:

There’s something very funny to me about the Quakers trying to stay hip with social-justice appeal:

Which maps are you using?

How Long Do You Hold ‘Em? Who Knows When To Fold ‘Em? Some Monday Links

Tyler Cowen talks with Annie Duke.

As a game that teaches numbers, strategy, discipline and patience, poker ain’t bad, and may be partially analagous to the laws:

‘Another thing that’s really important that poker players think about is, “If I put this policy in that looks like it’s awesome, how can someone come in and find the cracks in it so that it can turn into something bad?” I feel like the top 500 players would definitely be thinking in that way more.

Assuming that they wanted to use their powers for good as opposed to evil, which we’ll assume, I feel, in general, policies would be better, less easy to be advantaged, thinking more long-term, definitely more willing to take risks that were worthwhile.’

Judges and lawyers, in their adversarial discipline, are often thinking like this.  We all do, in some areas of our lives, think like this, be they personal or professional areas, for briefer or longer periods.  It seems we all benefit from unleashing human potential in others like this.

A reservation: I wonder about those who wish to rationalize everything as a norm, however, rather than as an exception.   Where people tend to pile up for lack of luck, talent, ambition, understanding and ability, is often where the future lies, and where new rules emerge.  I’m not exactly persuaded by the idea of ‘markets in everything’, though it strikes me as much less dangerous than the ‘personal is political.’ (a potentially false analogy).

This seems to me more in line with human nature, and might help avoid some of the pitfalls of the reason/anti-reason debate.  Rationalist thinking often invites anti-rationalists, and there are plenty of postmoderns, ‘-Ismologists’ and lost souls joining political movements and causes, creating whole epistemologies out of whole cloth.

Where it gets ugly: As one example of irrationality and groupthink, if you observe what happened to a very bright, very committed Left-of-Center evolutionary biology professor, teaching people how to think with a profound and useful method of arriving at truth, alongside a very committed, ideologically driven ‘media studies‘ professor with a bad epistemology and administrative support in the same university, the results weren’t good.

This is indicative of bad design, and I’d argue insufficient understanding of human nature.

In fact, the same dynamic is arguably now playing out in Seattle at large:  Mayor Jenny Durkan=Dean George Bridges.

There are very bright people working at the boundaries of new truth and new knowledge, who I’d argue often fail to appreciate arguments for how hard it is to maintain legitimate authority, and conserve the wisdom [and truth] in that which already works.

This is a much deeper matter of debate.

Norm Macdonald on Kenny Rogers’ song lyrics is a much funnier:

Repost: Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal-What The New Atheists Don’t See

Full piece here

Dalrymple claimed that the new round of atheists, (or at least some of the current spokesmen of popular atheism) are glossing over the deep metaphysical questions surrounding the existence of God.

Some atheists seem to be in danger of becoming adherents rather than free thinkers, or being in for a surprise when many adherents appear.

Addition:  More on Roger Sandall’s blog here, as he discusses Roger Scruton.

One question seems to be whether we choose to give religious arguments any quarter at all.  The hard atheist line seems to be no.  Mine is…perhaps…

As found on the Youtubes, a Dalrymple piece read with a Scottish accent:

Another of my very favourite TD essays, this one compares two 19th Century thinkers – Karl Marx and Ivan Turgenev. I believe that the observations, the wisdom, and the thorough takedown of Marx as a human being, are of great value.

~30 minutes. I think that bit about the dog actually made me tear-up.

Ah, the humanity:

Repost-Theodore Dalrymple And Roger Scruton-Don’t Judge Me

Here’s a quote from Eric Vogelin found here, for a friend:

‘Scientism has remained to this day on of the strongest Gnostic movements in Western society; and the immanentist pride in science is so strong that even the special sciences have each left a distinguishable sediment in the variants of salvation through physics, economics, sociology, biology, and psychology.’

More Germans.  Don’t immanentize the eschaton!

Addition: And there are deep theists too.

Related On This Site:  Repost: From The Strasbourg Observers: ‘Remembering Lautsi (And The Cross)’…Sometimes a cross isn’t just a cross, as Stanley Fish notesFrom Law At The End Of The Day: ‘Torn Between Religion And Law In Spain’Thursday Quotation: Bertrand Russell….Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

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

Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’

On The CHOP-ping Block-It’s Not All Peace, Love and Empathy: Which Moral Lights?

My two cents: It is, to some extent, the logic of ’68 continued, but now the more radical elements have come to the surface.  Just as CHAZ/CHOP started out with some legitimate grievance and healthier protest instincts, devolving into factional anarchy, chaos, thuggery and desperation, so too have many Left coalitions become more openly visible.

Drama on the high Seattle seas.

My guess is, Mayor Jenny Durkan believes (to some extent) in the tenets of the Church Of High Secular Protest and ‘-Ismology’:  Morally committed people, counter-culturally and collectively inclined, can keep things together (the rich and ‘corporations’ are morally suspect, males are unnecessarily aggressive, racism and sexism are everywhere, the police oppress while peace, love and empathy are next).

I’d like to think that CHAZ/CHOP was proven utopian at best.

Human nature and reality caught up.

Nobly, oh-so nobly, our fair Mayor invoked law enforcement when the action showed up on her doorstep.

Is she changing her tune?  Will most voters in Seattle suddenly rethink their moral commitments?

Don’t hold your breath.

Aside from Seattle, I think it should be obvious that our own institutional weakness is a major contributing factor to many current states of affairs.  Whichever model you may be using to view human political organization (some of my favorites include our American Framers, the Platonic, the Aristotelian and Montesquieu), our political parties are increadibly weak, our universities over-built and WAY over-administered with many second and third-raters).

It is very taboo to say so these days:  One need not base all their moral commitments in truth and knowledge claims put forth by those who believe society must radically change, nor even merely even the Civil Rights coalitions.   Movements tend to devolve into rackets, though many ideals may remain deep and true.

I’d like to keep one foot in and one foot out of such visions of (H)umanity.

As posted

Repost: Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Correspondence here.

Link sent in by a reader.

Without a stronger moral core, will liberalism necessarily corrode into the soft tyranny of an ever-expanding State?

Since the 60’s, and with a lot of postmodern nihilism making advances in our society, is a liberal politics of consent possible given the dangers of cultivating a kind of majoritarian politics: Dirty, easily corrupt, with everyone fighting for a piece of the pie?

As an example, Civil Rights activists showed moral courage and high idealism, to be sure, but we’ve also seen a devolution of the Civil Rights crowd into squabbling factions, many of whom seem more interested in money, self-promotion, influence, and political power.

The 60’s protest model, too, washed over our universities, demanding freedom against injustice, but it has since devolved into a kind of politically correct farce, with comically illiberal and intolerant people claiming they seek liberty and tolerance for all in the name of similar ideals.

Who are they to decide what’s best for everyone? How ‘liberal’ were they ever, really?

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals? Much closer to our founding fathers?

Related On This Site: 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?’

What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

Repost-Eugene Volokh At The National Review: ‘Multiculturalism: For or Against?’

A broader point I’ve been trying pin down, is how, with the unspooling of Enlightenment thinking, there has also unspooled an individualism becoming nihilist, postmodern and deeply alone; artfully and glamourously trashy. Out of such an environment, where many hip, avant-garde birds are flying, (S)elves flirt with Romantically primitive collectivism, epistemological faddishness, modern and failed theories of (H)istory like Marxism.

American egalitarianism, based in our founding documents, even as recently as two generations ago, was more able to effectively resist the rather unimaginative class-war critiques of Marxism.

Which kind of center would I like to see hold?

Some previously posted links:

The arts can be one lens with which to look at these problems and places…

Repost-Ah, Look At All The Lonely People-‘Jeff Koons Is Back’ Via Vanity Fair

-Banksy’s website here. Newsweek’s piece: ‘See You Banksy, Hello Invader.

I’d argue that it’s possible, especially with the constant cries of modernism to ‘make it new,‘ I think this is one way we’ve arrived at pop art, and the desire to blend conceptual art and popular music together. This is in evidence from The Talking Heads to Lady Gaga to Jay Z promoting his new album alongside Marina Abramovic at MOMA.

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

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

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

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

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.

Some City By City Photography Links, Some Questionable Philosophy, Some Reason/Anti-Reason Recycled Links Touching Along The Edges Of Postmodern Problems

-Via Mick Hartley, Lu Wenpeng photos of Paris Colors & Shadows.  People.  Light and shade.  Colors and shapes.

-As posted: Beauty, ugliness, youth, strength, and decay: Via Mick Hartley Bruce Davidson at Magnum’s ‘Subway (NYC subway during the 1980’s).

-Cool 5:38 video at the link. Mick Victor walks down the streets and alleyways of L.A. with camera in tow, his focus eventually drawn to some forms, shapes, colors or configuration. Some of those abstract photos here.

-Vivian Maier, the mystery street photographer from Chicago.

-It’s Vice (oh how tiresome the radical pose and how soon dull those who gather), but there’s earnest artistic ambition and innocence.

Bruce Gilden is mostly self-taught, and the accent couldn’t be any more Brooklyn.  Street photography can become muggy and full of kitsch, but I imagine it’s really hard to get right.

Coney Island!

For those especially drawn to observe, and be alone amongst a crowd, seeking moments of beauty, grace, and transcendence.  Where have you put your hopes?

What kind of relationship might you be in with such abstractions as that of human nature (your own deep impulses, passing thoughts, and possible motivations, as well as those of the people around you)?

What kind of relationship might you be in with such abstractions as nature and reality (the world your senses perceive, those laws and patterns likely enduring thought, the old knowledge become practice and the new knowledge on the edge of understanding, the truths which seem to little give nor receive, forgive nor remember)?

Are you really that alone?

Via a Reader via Scientific American: ‘An Update On C.P. Snow’s “Two Cultures:”

Essay here (PDF).

‘Earlier this summer marked the 50th anniversary of C. P. Snow’s famous “Two Cultures” essay, in which he lamented the great cultural divide that separates two great areas of human intellectual activity, “science” and “the arts.” Snow argued that practitioners in both areas should build bridges, to further the progress of human knowledge and to benefit society.’

My two cents: This blog tends to worry about modern ‘one culture’ visions, too.

On the one hand, you’ve got your ‘scientific socialism;’ the clear dead-end, totalizing Marxist theories of history and various neo-Marxist movements having since colonized many faculty-lounges, HR departments, and media pulpits across America.

Deep, bad ideas tend to live on once plugged into many deep, human desires and dreams. The radical pose will be with us for a while.

Of course, it’s rather sad to witness the sheepish, suburban apologetics of identity amongst the chattering classes; the moment of surprise and fear when a previously insulated writer (leaning upon traditions) realizes today just might be their day in the barrel.

Sooner or later you’re going to have to stand up for your principles.

You’ve also got many modern ‘-Ist’ movements, which, whatever truth and knowledge claims they may contain (some quite important ones, I think), are often quick to conflate the means of science with the ends of politics. ‘Join us,’ they say, and become a part of the modern world. The mission of ‘Education’ is easily mistaken for knowledge, learning with wisdom, collective group action with individual achievement.

There is a kind of a high middlebrow drift towards….I’m not sure where, exactly.

Alas, if you’re still with me, here are some links:

M.H. Abrams here.

“…in the days when, to get a Ph.D., you had to study Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Old French, and linguistics, on the notion that they served as a kind of hard-core scientific basis for literary study.”

and of the New Criticism he says:

I’ve been skeptical from the beginning of attempts to show that for hundreds of years people have missed the real point,”

Did literature professors at one point have something more substantive to teach?

In a broader context, hasn’t the Western mind has shifted to “science,” instead of God as a deepest idea, and so too isn’t literature a part of this shift?

Does this necessarily lead to the Reason/Anti-Reason debate we seem to be falling into?  The postmodern problems?

Interesting quotation from Quora, on Richard Feynman’s discussion of light in ‘QED: The Strange Theory Of Light And Matter’:

‘Mirrors and pools of water work pretty much the same way. Light interacts with electrons on the surface. Under the laws of quantum mechanics, each photon interacts with ALL of the electrons on the surface, and the net result is the sum of all possible pathways. If the surface is perfectly smooth, then most of the pathways cancel each other out, except for the one where the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. ‘

Click through for the illustrations to help explain Feynman’s theory, which fascinated me when I first came across it; much as I understand of it.

Have you ever seen sunlight reflecting off a body of water from a few thousand feet up in a plane?  A rainbow in a puddle with some oil in it?  A laser reflecting off a smooth surface like a mirror?

As Richard Rorty sees it, no standard objective for truth exists but for the interpretation of a few philosophers interpreting whatever of philosophy they’ve read. It’s all just an author’s “stuff.” Here’s an excerpt discussing the debate between him and Hilary Putnam:

Addition: Western mind shifted to “science?”…well as for poetry T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens had some fairly profound religious influences.

See Also: Should You Bother To Get A Liberal Arts Education? From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

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

***Whom do you trust for discussions of the arts and culture, and would you just rather publications be up front about their ideological bents and loyalties?

F-30 Moving Carousel -1

Beauty is no quality in things themselves, it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.

David Hume

Goya, that modern, had to make a living from the royal family: Goya’s ColossusGoya’s Fight With CudgelsGoethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersNASA Composite Image Of The Earth At Night…Beauty?Garrett Mattingly On Machiavelli-The Prince: Political Science Or Political Satire?

Repost-From The NY Times: Schlieren Photography

Slate Star Codex And A Link Which No Longer Works

Sad record of note:  One of the deeper blogs on the web, Slate Star Codex, has been voluntarily deleted by its author.

Why?  As a professional with professional responsibilities, and while already receiving some trouble for his labors, the noble NY Times threat and promise of an expose apparently helped the decision.

I was planning on linking to a post over there on an AI model running only on Wallace Stevens poems and now it’s gone.  Here’s to hoping it’s not permanent as in forever.

A shame:

I’ve been treating my blog as a salvage operation, carrying the poems, songs, ideas and traditions most important to me, and my small contribution to our Republic, forwards.

It’s not much, but it’s something.  I tend to seek out people who disagree (including Slate Star Codex) as often as those who might agree.

My biases and two cents: Twitter LI (loudest ignorance) and LAB (loud activist bias) seem to be proceeding apace. I certainly don’t trust people curating that network to maintain a platform for broader and freer thought, though the design works well for cheap, easy access to a network and constantly updating information across that network (emergencies, weather, a media wire, condensed packets of information etc.)

As for the NY Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, NPR etc, given how social change cool becomes radical chic, and radical chic ‘wokeness,’ and ‘wokeness’ narrow ideological conformity, it’s little surprise they’ve drifted as well.

From where I stand:  Tack your sail to normalizing the radical, and you tend to drift further away from tradition (joining individuals and groups who often ‘otherize’ anything religious, established and traditional and who unify their in-group by viewing such ideas as morally suspicious and potentially evil).  Utopias hang endlessly upon the horizon.  Making politics the thing-that-unites is placing a ridiculous weight upon political institutions.

The high liberal ideals and appeals to universal secular humanism don’t seem to be placating the desire for immediate and radical change, nor the meaning and purpose provided in some lives by ideological membership; the individual (S)elf increasingly left to make all of life’s meaning on his own.

Just as many universities, journals, publications and media outlets are going woke and failing to understand what scientists do (often displaying loyalty to ideological visions of (S)cience, Romanticized Nature and techo-bureaucratic utopianism), many publications also can’t resist the pressure of deploying gloriously useless art for the latest moral or political cause.

The problems of nature, human nature and legitimate authority are deeper than many realize.

As posted, someone’s going to be running our institutions and making rules out of a presumed universal and common sense set of assumptions:

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

Gurri offered 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.’

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.’

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

Maintaining a healthy skepticism:

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

Andy Ngo Inside The People’s Republic Of Autonomous And Occupied Seattle-A Few Links On Free Will, CHAZ, CHOP Or Whatever’s Coming Next

Andy Ngo from inside CHAZ, or CHOP, or TBD:

“Despite the pleas from those who live and work inside Capitol Hill for law and order to be restored, Seattle’s city council has determined that CHAZ should continue. On Tuesday, the city even provided upgrades to CHAZ, including street blockades that double as graffiti canvases, along with cleaning services and porta-potties.

It is difficult to decipher what CHAZ occupants want. Each faction, whether liberal, Marxist or anarchist, has their own agenda. But one online manifesto posted on Medium demands no less than the abolishment of the criminal justice system.”

My two cents: To give you a flavor of Seattle politics, there has been an avowed Socialist (born in India) on the City Council for a few years now, a Marxist of sorts (born in Africa), writing for The Stranger, and maybe, Dear Reader, just check out Yesler Terrace.  It says a lot more than I could.

In Seattle then, there’s a globally aspiring green, pink and red politics which runs the city (pretty insane), fighting it out with a rather muscular system of free-flowing capital and trade (Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, a big port), a rather mild, perhaps Left-Of-Center working-man, garage-band ethos (fishing, boat-building, timber, code, grunge etc), and some very laid-back attitudes.  Seattle’s not the most civilized, mature nor cultured place, but it’s got some real advantages.

As for CHAZ or CHOP:  Capitol Hill has always seemed like a slowly unfolding protest to me.  Now it’s been kicked-up a few notches. The general ethos there, for better or worse, is alternative, counter-culture, anti-establishment, and ‘liberatory.’

It’s unsurprising to me, then, that Seattle’s current Mayor (responsible for law enforcement) supports undercutting the laws she’s required to enforce because she shares overlap with the ideas of anarchists, radicals, revolutionaries and some violent and dangerous lawbreakers in her vision of democratic leadership.  Everything must go!

Will this be good for her re-election chances?  It’s possible.

The sad thoughts which come to me:  However this little experiment ends, it will cost.  There will be some lives, property, many businesses, the time and energy of thousands.

Even if many residents and businesses do decide to sue the City and the Mayor’s Office for being stuck in CHOP, it’s still taxpayer money.  It won’t just be the deep pockets paying, but the time, money and decency of everyone deciding to honorably carry something which doesn’t require destroying everything that exists first.

On that note, if you’re interested in a more philosophical discussion, on many schools of postmodern thought, the nihilism of Nietzsche, collectivism, and the politics of identity, Stephen Hicks is worth a listen:

The ideas of free will and individual responsibility are generally not shared by those with a collectivist, identity-driven worldview:

And even as Mill’s utilitarianism can end-up sacrificing a few individuals for some greater good, the intersectional and identity-politics ideas sacrifice individuals at the start.

Yes, this was coming, and it’s still coming.  The radical roots are very unstable foundations upon which to maintain democratic institutions:

Repost-Where Shall Meaning Be Found? Some People Are Deeply Concerned With Your Pop, Funk & Soul Interests

The more one starts digging around at foundations, the trickier it gets. It’s good to seek-out different opinions, and often knowlegeable opinions, to augment our vital pop-music discussions. The future of the Nation may be at stake!

NY Times/Vox contributing USC musicologist, Nate Sloan, instructs a meaning-starved nation, turning its lonely eyes to him, that the Jonas Brothers have opened a ‘musical wormhole’ back to a funkier time.

Ah, the NY Times.

A piney backwoods, black-preaching, soul-screeching musical legend ran his band hard and got results. A real innovator.

Rick Beato, musician, music producer and potential Youtube purist, says no, the Jonas Brothers use quantized drum machines, so while syncopated and seemingly funky, like so much recorded music for the past twenty or twenty-five years, the feel is lost. It’s all digitized.

Real music is real people in real time, speeding up and slowing down, often intuitively, in response to other real people in the band and out in the audience. There are better standards.

You have to be there, man, or at least listen to Clyde Stubblefield recorded as he played.

Actually, Jonathan ‘Sugarfoot’ Moffet, who worked as a drummer for Michael Jackson, among others, is having a moment.  He’s very precise with his time, and he plays to the song.  Good art looks easy:

What’s going on with all the attempts at meaning and all this ‘explanation,’ almost if saying something ‘performatively’ will make it true?: Have you noticed how so many of the writers are talking about writing, and the comedians about comedy, and the cartoonists about cartoons?

Part of this can be explained by explosive growth in technology and a relatively open marketplace of ideas. There’s just a lot of stuff out there.

Some good advice I’ve received in dealing with all this potential knowledge; to help protect your valuable time: Learn something and keep learning. Go pretty far in at least one field or area. If you aren’t learning new things you aren’t doing it right. Even if you are a bit of a loner, or relatively deep, keep your family, friends, and professional and personal development active. Have many irons in many fires so no single loss becomes catastrophic.

Other problems possibly afoot: There sure is a lot of talk about the person and not the person’s achievements. There sure is a lot of focus on celebrities and so many of them famous just for being famous. There are all these media outlets are presuming to tell you how to understand the world, even though they can’t even pay reporters to get basic facts.

Everyone gets a trophy!

Some of these problems, I think, are related to what I’ll call the ‘postmodern’ problem, and I’ve been digging around at it for a while. This blog is still trying to work towards a definition of modernism:

Interesting piece here.

‘Like many scholars of modernism, I’m often asked two questions: What is modernism? And why is modernist studies, it seems, all the rage right now? I don’t have a good, succinct answer to either question — and I’ve no doubt frustrated plenty of friends because of that — but the reasons why I don’t are pretty telling.’

From the comments:

‘The most useful definition of modernist fiction I’ve encountered comes from Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction. He says modernist fiction tends to “foreground epistemological questions” such as “How can I interpret the world I’m part of? What is there to be known?Who knows it? What are the limits of that knowledge?” In contrast, postmodernist fiction tends to “foreground ontological questions” such as “What is a world? What kinds of worlds are there and how are they constituted? What happens when…boundaries between worlds are violated?’

As previously posted:

Repost-‘Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?’

Land Art Links Along A With A Quite Modernist W.S. Merwin Poem

William Logan At The New Criterion: ‘Pound’s Metro’…Monday Poem: ‘A Pact’ By Ezra Pound

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

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.

I’d argue that this ‘postmodern’ problem also likely bleeds out into other causes, and abstract ideas, like the Climate.

Media issues: Aside from the knowledge problems faced by all of us (oh, how little we know), but especially the knowledge and truth problems faced by people peddling information and influence or writing for money, there are other challenges. There are problems of looking to political and ideological beliefs to define one’s (S)elf. The showcasing of activist concerns and the consultation of ‘experts’ has become the glue of much academic, media and bureaucratic life.

To my eyes, the below is not necessarily the sign of a healthy movement, nor a movement properly grounded in the pursuits of knowledge and truth. Some people are desperate to be a part of something, to have a righteous cause in common (one more protest), and to hate enemies if they must.

There’s actual binary logic, and systems of computation, models of the world, using data input channels to re-create and hopefully predict the world. Sometimes when you think you know something, as you close-in on a higher level of resolution, the model can simply give way. Christopher Essex discusses ‘Believing In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, And Climate Models.’

This stuff is complicated, but it’s a lot like the music discussion above.

It seems obvious that some climate radicalism has hardened into an idealism guiding much establishment conventional wisdom, producing an enormous gravy-train of special interests, regulations and questionable incentives. At present, it would seem a vast majority of people busy scribbling for media outlets believe in climate change as much as they believe in anything.

But merely believing in something, having a guiding ideal and becoming politically active around that ideal, may not actually enough to actually be grounded in knowledge and truth.

Beneath the political idealists, in fact, are still many radicals, utopians and crazies (though, admittedly, some pretty damned good gospel improv):

As previously posted: Bathe in the bathos of a warming world:

A reader sends a link to a SF Gate review of poet Jorie Graham’s ‘Sea Change:

‘In “Sea Change,” Graham becomes Prospero, casting spells by spelling out her thoughts to merge with ours, and with the voices of the elements. The result is a mingling of perceptions rather than a broadcasting of opinions. Instead of analysis, the poems encourage emotional involvement with the drastic changes overwhelming us, overwhelm- ing the planet.’

and:

‘Strengths and weaknesses, flows and ebbs, yet every poem in “Sea Change” bears memorable lines, with almost haunting (if we truly have but 10 years to “fix” global warming) images of flora and fauna under siege. Jorie Graham has composed a swan song for Earth.’

Oh boy.

What are these poems being asked to do?