Journey To The Center Of The Navel

This Wendell Berry quote, from on “tolerance and multiculturalism,” from his essay “The Joy of Sales Resistance”, has stayed with me:

‘Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.’

Please do keep in mind Wendell Berry is NOT going to buy a computer.

My discount predictions (buy 2 get 1 FREE): Radical campus politics will continue to settle into newsroom malaise and an increasingly fevered search for meaning, identity and the Self in the culture-at-large.  Folks already committed to particular doctrines will continue seeking solidarity with other Selves through identity collectivism and group-belonging while making [elements of] politics, the humanities and the social sciences something like an exclusionary religion (the pathway to a better world).

Down below the radicals and up-top some high minded idealists, free-thinkers and all manner of others in-between, a bit like folks in a church, which is why there might be so much hatred and potential overlap with religious belief (to say nothing of the relentless focus on authoritarian/totalitarian impulses).

I’m pretty sure publicly taking the mildest ‘bourgeois’ stance on marriage, kids, work etc. will continue to make one an enemy, political and otherwise, to those gathered around such nodes.

The Boston Evening Transcript

The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript
Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.


When evening quickens faintly in the street,
Wakening the appetites of life in some
And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,
I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning
Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,
If the street were time and he at the end of the street,
And I say, “Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript.”

T.S. Eliot

The best kinds of clubs tend to be those whose members aren’t even sure they’re in a club.

The most interesting kinds of people can be free-thinkers, maintaining their humility, kindling a flame of quiet moral courage when called-upon.

Some of these people are quite traditional, others, not so much.

Theodore Dalrymple on Banksy:

‘The enormous interest his work arouses, disproportionate to its artistic merit, shows not that there is fashion in art, but that an adolescent sensibility is firmly entrenched in our culture. The New York Times reports that a lawyer, Ilyssa Fuchs, rushed from her desk the moment she heard about Banksy’s latest work and ran more than half a mile to see it. Would she have done so if a delicate fresco by Peiro della Francesca had been discovered in Grand Central Terminal? In the modern world, art and celebrity are one. And we are all Peter Pan now: We don’t want to grow up.’

Well, I certainly hadn’t noticed an adolescent sensibility at the NY Times. Certainly not.

An image of one of those Peiro della Francesca frescoes here.

Perhaps it’s worthwhile to view Banksy as a kind of poor man’s Damien Hirst: A ‘working-class’ British guy with some native talent but not too much in the way of formal training nor arguably lasting artistic achievement (perhaps in the ‘graffiti’ world). Instead of working as a gallery, mixed-media modern installation artist like Hirst, he’s followed the street-graffiti path leaving ‘transgressive’ messages on politics and ethics scrawled across the cityscape in anonymity. For all his irony, and the fact that he’s likely in on the joke, Banksy still finds himself subject to the larger forces at work where art, money, & fame are meeting.

As a girl in Seattle here mentioned to me at a party: ‘His work is a meta-commentary on art, commerce, greed, creativity and all that. His becoming a commodity is the ultimate irony.’

Deep, man, deep.

Yet, as to Dalrymple’s point, I could imagine an adult sneaking off to check out a Michaelangelo fresco with childlike anticipation, and maybe even a little childish or adolescent delight at being the first to arrive. Of course, I think that fresco tends to engender a much deeper and complex response than that of Banksy’s work and ‘social commentary’, but the desire for beauty, hope, and brief bursts of transcendence aren’t going anywhere. This reminds me of Richard Wilbur’s poem: ‘First Snow In Alsace.‘ which evokes the grim realities of war and suffering covered up by a beautiful snowfall.

Here are the last stanzas and line:

…You think: beyond the town a mile
Or two, this snowfall fills the eyes
Of soldiers dead a little while.

Persons and persons in disguise,
Walking the new air white and fine,
Trade glances quick with shared surprise.

At children’s windows, heaped, benign,
As always, winter shines the most,
And frost makes marvelous designs.

The night guard coming from his post,
Ten first-snows back in thought, walks slow
And warms him with a boyish boast:

He was the first to see the snow.

The worst war can bring is juxtaposed against our simple childlike wonder (and possibly childish) delight at that which is beautiful and mysterious in nature. Of course, such desires can help cause the destruction of war, too, but…hey. People love to be the first and the coolest. As Dalrymple argues above, these childish impulses are the ones that should not be so easily encouraged nor celebrated, especially by Banksy nor his reviewers at the NY Times. I pretty much agree.

On that note, Dear Reader, I’d like to leave you these words from Slate’s review of that hot new motion picture-film, Joker:

‘The opening scene, in which Arthur, who’s peacefully but unhappily twirling a sign for a discount store, is taunted and then beaten by a gang of Latino-coded thugs, draws directly on the narrative of white persecution so effectively weaponized by Donald Trump.’

Glorious!

The British Are Coming, Darth Vaper And Just Look At That Parking Lot

I’m sure there’s already an outfit called ‘Serial Vapist’ (after twenty seconds of searching, yes, in fact, there is).

Here’s Matt Ridley on vaping, and most of the specious arguments made in favor of regulation:

‘Vaping is the perfect example of a voluntary innovation derived from free enterprise that delivers better human health, at no cost to the taxpayer, and no inconvenience to society — and causes pleasure. I neither smoke nor vape and have no financial interest in either, but I wish it every success.’

I AM your father.

As posted: It’s no coincidence that libertarian-minded folk at Reason magazine are addressing the issue. E-cigarettes could be confusing the children in NYC.  The FDA has recently been on the manufacturer’s case.  The City Council takes the smoking ban (get Big Tobacco!) a step further:

What’s a little surprising may be the rush to moral judgment, condemnation and control.

Addition:  Delivering stuff into your lungs with a ‘portable chemistry set’ is going to have side-effects, if we’re honest, but relative to smoking cigarettes and relative to the level of potential moral panic going around, I remain skeptical and open to data. I also remain somewhat skeptical that a movement towards ever-expanding individual freedoms, often towards anarchy, won’t have side-effects either.

Compared to modern revolutionary movements, radical activism, collectivist Romantic tribalism and the morally panicked, one could do much worse.

Get ready for some bloviating:

As this blog sees things, the posture of radical opposition to some existing rule or law, through claims of liberation from oppression, tends to yield an ever-growing list of new and/or hybrid rules and laws.  Radicals, after all, are still full of thoughts, beliefs, hopes, moral and aesthetic judgments etc.  No man is an island, least of all men enmeshed within liberatory, collectivist movements united against the oppressor.

It’s unsurprising that the Marxist tendency to conceive of all of life (personal and public) in economic terms, puts ever more pressure upon ‘capitalism’ and marketplaces (the freer flow of capital) to deliver meaning and purpose in people’s lives.  Though to be fair, some old-school Marxists are sticks-in-the-mud against the postmodern, post-Marxist drift towards radical individualism, nihilism and existentialism, critical of the many knowledge claims within the old systems.

Modern ideological movements tend to promise the good, the true and the beautiful all in one package.  (H)istory has a direction and a purpose which can be known; it can be visualized and actualized.  (H)istory, for the committed ideologue, has an end, and men’s ends can be known and actualized within this vision.

(S)cience, of course, provides precise mathematical and probabilistic knowledge of the Natural world, usually the best knowledge we have, based upon observation.  This knowledge can reach out and describe the material world, elements of which may actually empirically exist similar as they present themselves to our senses and the complex analyses some people perform.

What, I, personally, tend to see as a category error, however, lies in assuming the sciences can produce such knowledge transferable to (H)istory and (P)olitics without information loss; not merely what is, but what ought to be.

On that note, Theodore Dalrymple, prison psychiatrist, tries to take some claims of psychiatry down a peg or two.  Aside from the application of biology, medicine and psychology to people’s interior thoughts, psychology has had some serious reproducibility problems.

Perhaps that latest Self-Help indulgence, or that Psych 101 course applied to HR problem-solving is about as reliable as the abstract metaphysics of a young Man Of God?

Just look at that Parking Lot!:

Dalrymple comes at problems of psychiatry as a psychiatrist, and from the perspective of a humanist.  There’s deep suffering and deep wisdom in literature; the kind of which can cultivate humble self-reflection.  All people and all problems are not necessarily going to be solved in the DSM.

Some of [psychiatry’s] knowledge claims may be slightly inflated, hopes ready to be dashed and lives harmed, especially when they deal with people in prisons and on the edges of society, the most vulnerable and/or dangerous among us.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

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:

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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?’

 

Hey Kids, Come Over Here And Try Some Of This Depressive Realism-A Few Links & Thoughts

Ben Sixsmith ‘Art For The Age Of Social Media…

‘A YouGov poll on behalf of Homes & Antiques magazine has revealed that Banksy is Britain’s favourite artist.’

Dear Reader, I used to read ‘Homes & Antiques Magazine‘ religiously, hours of orange rinds scattered on my plate. ‘What does it mean?’

I used to drive half-dressed to the last parking lot on Earth, a few final photons bending through our atmosphere.

I could not outrun a racing mind, pacing among the dunes, staring out across an empty bay, salt winds curling the grasses: ‘Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are FOURTH on the yougov most popular food and snack brands list.

Once you accept the idea that a good work of art can play deep chords, elevating you, proffering wisdom, awe, and pleasure, you generally wish to preserve it and hold it close, sharing in its illumination.  In such a light, a lot of other stuff can resemble so much kitsch strewn after a storm of technological and engineering progress..

Depending on how deeply and often you do this, you can become ‘refined.’

Sixsmith again:

‘We have been replacing a lack of cultural quality with cultural quantity. Instead than having rare moments of beauty, power and insight, we (or, at least, many of us) face a ceaseless barrage of the cute, the curious and the clichéd. Rather than seeking out artworks which flicker in our minds long after we have stopped looking at them, we browse past endless images that light our brains up like catherine wheels. Images are almost too accessible. We can see everything, and nothing matters. Like. Like. Like.’

As I currently see things, there are always questions of artistic sorts feeling constrained by convention, tradition, repetition and practice.  Money issues never really go away.  Now there’s just an arguably greater quantity of crap with which to compete for a reader’s attention.

Perhaps there’s also the condition of the isolated individual artist alone, conceiving of himself as outside all meaningful conventions, traditions and practices.  This, too, has become a convention, tradition and practice, for many artists and non-artists alike.  Selves speak to Selves.

Just stay on the surface of things, and move through:

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Billy Collins

The confessional poets wove inner revelations into the architecture of their poems, and made themselves into active subjects.

A generation or two later, and they seem to have more prizes than poets.  From cartoons to comedians, many Selves are seeking hidden meanings behind every word.

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

Repost-So, You’re Telling Me What’s Cool?-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Banksy In Neverland’

Repost-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full piece here.

Our author finds Paglia a welcome, often contrary, voice:

‘Behind that devotion to heterodoxy lies something softer. She [Paglia] admitted that she’s chosen to censor herself in front of her students, no longer teaching them, for example, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” a song about lynching, which was for years an important part of her course “The Art of Song Lyric.’

I had a very competent, very good professor tell me she stopped teaching Sylvia Plath for somewhat similar reasons.  It was too much for some students.

‘In her slender 1998 book The Birds, for example, published by the British Film Institute, she [Paglia] writes that the Hitchcock classic is “in the main line of British Romanticism, descending from the raw nature-tableaux and sinister femmes fatales of Coleridge.”

One could do worse than study British Romanticism (Wordsworth, Keats, Mad Bad Byron), despite the problems that come in glorifying (M)an and (H)umanity.  Some people are so busy glorifying (M)an they treat actual men appallingly.  The record isn’t always so (I)deal.

One could do worse than the Romantic return to Nature as a worthwhile area of study, (despite a serious German problem, among others). The Modernist response to Romanticism (Bloomsbury, Eliot, Pound) and some current neo-classical retorts out of the postmodern soup could take up a few good semesters.

Heck, there’s plenty of good blank verse out there right now, and American Romanticism and American pragmatism have much to recommend.

So much to learn!

Our author finishes with:

‘Cosmic reality is both wondrous and terrifying to her. “The sublime,” she said, “opens up the vastness of the universe, in which human beings and their works are small and nothing!” The world may be less enchanted than it was when Paglia was a child, but she still stands in awe of it. Her life’s work has been to share that message with others.’

There’s plenty to share, and, for what it’s worth, John Williams playing Isaac Albeniz’ Cordoba can induce a sublime state for me (especially at minute 1:20):

I think this is more reflection and a desire for the holy and larger-than-myself (ducking away from busy streets, into the quiet interplay of shadow and sun, observing the stars carved into the ceiling and looking for patterns).

Dear Reader, I’m accustomed to my own little corner of the internet, where I traffic in low-traffic.  I synthesize many of my own experiences, ideas and other people’s thoughts into occasional bursts of competency.

In the video below, Camille Paglia and Jordan Peterson discuss a shared view that post-structuralism (Foucault, Lacan, Derrida) has impoverished much of the humanities.  As Paglia notes, the older-school New Criticism at least had some devotion to truth in its close textual readings.

She might share some similar intellectual ground with Peterson in using Nietzsche’s nihilist toolkit to examine many modern problems in the arts and where people are finding meaning in their lives (the move from Schopenhauer’s Will To Nietzsche’s Will To Power).  Deploying Nietzsche’s Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy, too, into pop culture gives Paglia some depth as she tries to synthesize high and low (Madonna, George Lucas, Alfred Hitchcock).  Despite her affinity for actual 60’s Marxist radicals which I don’t share (many of whom LSD’d their way into oblivion), Paglia pushes against many feminists and careerists from this radical point-of-view.

She’s a popularizer appealing to a large audience and a contrarian in the sense of the word for which I have some respect.

In fact, both have an ability to appreciate and understand many knowledge claims made by many Englightment and post-Enlightenment fields of study.  One shouldn’t have to become anti-empiricist (including nihilism), nor anti-humanist, in seeking a good humanities education.

Many postmoderns (and some Nietzscheans, for that matter) dislike being called-out their on relative ignorance of the sciences. From mathematics to statistics, from chemistry to biology, from psychology and on down the line to history, many institutionalized folks imagine themselves often standing outside, and in radical opposition to, the civilization and institutions they are entrusted to maintain.

One of the reasons I suspect both Paglia and Peterson are in a currently ‘semi-banished’ cultural space is that they both openly claim a respect for the wisdom and depth found in the Bible (whatever your thoughts on the transcendent claims to truth and knowledge found therein).  It appears both take a deeply tragic view of life and human nature, and both reject the rejection of traditions so much in vogue these days.

Notice this is enough to upset the apple-cart of many  ‘-Ists,’ from feminists to gender activists to many Left-leaning coalitions of political utopians and social justice seekers, often seeking institutional authority while claiming all current institutional authority is illegitimate. Many such ideas have become very mainstream, indeed.

If you haven’t noticed such ‘-Ists,’ it seems they and I’d argue, too, that you maybe should be paying more attention.

Related On This Site:  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 SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

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

Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Is there a move afoot in America away from religion, social conservatism, and toward morality via secular Enlightenment ideals…towards value-free relativism?  toward secular morality?:  Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’Repost-Steven Weinberg’s Essay ‘On God’ In The NY Times Review Of BooksRoger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’ …Will Wilkinson At Forbes: ‘The Social Animal by David Brooks: A Scornful Review’..

Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism

Bonus interview with Roger Scruton on his ‘Fools, Frauds, & Firebrands:’

Repost-Wandering the Sea Of Fog Above Your Hotel Bed-Diminished Things: Theodore Dalrymple On Susan Sontag

From Fans Of Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The White Race Is The Cancer Of The Human History.’

Susan Sontag couldn’t mean such nonsense, could she?

‘The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilisation has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions.’

Yes and no, probably.

Traversing the rocky outcrops of the postmodern landscape can lead to occasional outbursts of moral grandeur.  Beneath the fog, hilltops can present themselves as though all of ‘(H)istory’ is coming into view.

Bathing in the thermal pools of group identity, deep inside of this ritual or that, perhaps chanting ‘power-theories’ to feel some warmth and comfort; all may quiet the conscience for a time.

Sooner or later, though, action is required. The injustice becomes unbearable.  The Self lies suspended atop ‘(H)istory’ and the utopias to come under its oppressions.

What were once Romantic visions of grandeur high above the clouds (is that an old German castle?) were still available to some Modernists, but maybe even fewer postmodernists, yet.

Where are these things headed?

Addition: It would seem I can state the radical case well enough that actual radicals are mistaking this post for one of sympathy.

—-

Be careful where you put your Self, dear reader, as your moral sentiments, hope and despair will follow.

If I’m going to make an appeal to your Self, then at least let me do it in more pragmatic fashion, away from these many post-Enlightenment dead-ends and radical discontents.

Related On This Site:Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

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

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

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. ‘

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

Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’

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?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’

From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’

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

Discussed in the video: James Lindsay’s 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.

Also, the two touch upon Critical Theory, and the next generation of post-post-modernists, reacting against the previous generation.

I doubt movements like this ever really die, especially ones committed to the logic of radically standing apart from all institutions of authority, traditions, systems and social arrangments;  the lone, brilliant artists and the academic poseurs cloaked within the glamour of nihilist jargon and bad epistemologies.

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

Related On This Blog:

Martha Nussbaum on Judith Butler: ‘The Professor Of Parody

Postmodern generator here, via David Thompson.

Simon Blackburn revisits the Sokal hoax.

The Sokal hoax:

“…in 1996 the radical “postmodernist” journal Social Text published an article submitted by Alan Sokal, a mathematical physicist at New York University, with the mouthwatering title “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Sokal then revealed the article to be a spoof…”

Sokal has been busy ruminating since that paper, and Blackburn, a Cambridge philosophy professor, reviews his ruminations.

Mentioned In The Review:  Kant, Karl Popper, Einstein, postmodernism, a sympathetic account of the academic postmodernist climate, Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, (T)ruth, Richard Rorty…


Daniel Dennett from 1998: Postmodernism and Truth

‘When I was a young untenured professor of philosophy, I once received a visit from a colleague from the Comparative Literature Department, an eminent and fashionable literary theorist, who wanted some help from me. I was flattered to be asked, and did my best to oblige, but the drift of his questions about various philosophical topics was strangely perplexing to me. For quite a while we were getting nowhere, until finally he managed to make clear to me what he had come for. He wanted “an epistemology,” he said. An epistemology. Every self-respecting literary theorist had to sport an epistemology that season, it seems, and without one he felt naked, so he had come to me for an epistemology to wear–it was the very next fashion, he was sure, and he wanted the dernier cri in epistemologies. It didn’t matter to him that it be sound, or defensible, or (as one might as well say) true; it just had to be new and different and stylish. Accessorize, my good fellow, or be overlooked at the party’

Worth a read.

The arts and humantities can be given a seriousness of purpose, I’m guessing, but must that purpose necessarily be scientific?

Do creative musical/artistic geniuses really need to understand particularly well how the sciences advance? How much does it matter that a theater major understands how the sciences come to say true things about the world and predict with high accuracy how nature behaves beyond a science course or two?

I could be wrong.

Clearly, one problem is that out of the postmodern malaise comes the nihilism, moral relativism and general desperation where many can be found clinging to the sciences, or some standard of rationalism and reason that doesn’t seem sufficient in answering all the questions religion claims to answer, nor doesn’t seem sufficient as a platform to understand human nature, history, tradition, the wisdom in our institutions, and the experience past generations can offer beyond its own presumptions.

Lots of people can thus make ideology their guide and political change their purpose, or the State their religion and their own moral failings or moral programs everyone’s moral oughts through the law and politics.

Who has the moral legitimacy to be in charge?

Quote found here at friesian.com (recovering Kantian idealism through post-Kantian philosopher Jakob Fries):

‘Oddly enough, it is the intellectual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’

John M. Ellis, Literature Lost [Yale University Press, 1997, p. 214]


Using quite a bit of German idealism (Hegelian) to get at the problem:

Roger Scruton here.

Book here.

‘While I am complaining, I will also note that Scruton has nothing to say about how several of these figures—especially Žižek and Alain Badiou, along with Jacques Derrida, who is barely mentioned here—have played a role in the so-called “religious turn” of humanistic studies, in which various movements generally called “postmodern” find a significant place for religion in their reflections, if not in their beliefs or practices. This marks a significant departure from the relentless secularism of most earlier forms of European leftism, and that deserves note. Nor does Scruton account fully for Jürgen Habermas’s reputation as a centrist figure in the German and more generally the European context. (Habermas too has spoken more warmly of religion in recent years.’

I’ve heard Scruton’s rather sober vision of the good society referred to as ‘Scrutopia’ by dissenters:

On this site, see:

More Scruton here.

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.’

Steven Pinker piece here.

Pinker boils his argument down to two ideals:

‘The first is that the world is intelligible. The phenomena we experience may be explained by principles that are more general than the phenomena themselves.’

and:

‘The commitment to intelligibility is not a matter of brute faith, but gradually validates itself as more and more of the world becomes explicable in scientific terms.’

Hilary Putnam and Bryan Magee discuss the ‘treasure chest’ vision of science, where you just keep filling up the chest with more and more knowledge.

————————

Pinker’s second ideal is as follows:

‘The second ideal is that the acquisition of knowledge is hard. The world does not go out of its way to reveal its workings, and even if it did, our minds are prone to illusions, fallacies, and superstitions.’

One of the other debates here is about where meaning shall be found, in politics, in ethics, as a foundation for the humanities, and religion, as all manner of other ideas fill the void.

Addition:  I guess I’m trying to say that I remain skeptical the sciences can properly scale. Many people claiming to have a scientific worldview are curiously more committed to ideas downstream of scientific inquiry. This can involve an idealized or popular, mummified vision of ‘science,’ (the science is clear, it’s on on my side, we must act together or vote for x) or even ‘anti-science’ nihilism and destructive cultism (the universe is a meaningless void, you’re utterly alone, here’s exactly what the scientists don’t want you to know, so join us).

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”

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

From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.…  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

More here from the Times Literary Supplement.

I suppose ‘anarcho-syndicalism’ and/or ‘libertarian socialism’ is better than the dead-ends of socialist doctrine.  Noam Chomsky actually had enough computational/scientific training to be dismissive of postmodern thought. Perhaps after Kant’s transcendental idealism, Chomsky really does believe that morality, like Chomsky’s innatist theory of language, is universal and furthermore hard-wired into the brain.  This could lead to a political philosophy of either universalism or nihilism, or at least his retreat into anarchism or anarcho-syndicalism away from such idealism.  There’s little to no room for the individual in such a vision.  Perhaps Chomsky has never seen life, liberty and property and the individual except from such a vantage point:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

What Are You Carrying? Some Tuesday Links

-Rod Dreher has an interesting take on Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film: ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

-Christopher Caldwell questions the wisdom of placing true-believing spokeschildren at the head of your movement.  Ah, the NY Times.

-Theodore Dalrymple on Boris Johnson and the October 31st deadline.

Also via Rod Dreher, these tweets by Carlo Lancelloti (translator of Italian political thinker Augusto Del Noce) ring true.  There are boomer Northeastern Democrats in my family, seemingly unable to cope with many recent changes in the political and media landscape.

In fact, my half-hearted creation, Peace Pavilion West, a center of worship for all well-educated, secular, forward-thinking humanists opens its doors to all weary travelers.

Lest ye think it’s open season on Boomers, remember that you’re getting older, too.  What are you carrying?

As posted:

Please note that there is absolutely no sarcasm below. No somewhat ham-handed attempts at satire. All of the below is absolutely true. Peace Pavilion West is just waiting for People to fill the pews of the Human Pagoda:

You know, instead of the arts reinforcing religious beliefs or biblical stories, or the Romantic return to Nature, or the aims of high-modernism, music just ought to reflect the feelings of bodies juxtaposed in postmodern space. Music should echo thoughts about the Self seeking other Selves within global communities awaiting climate catastrophe:

Will all roads pass through the solar and wind energies of Peace Pavilion West, and the rooftop kale gardens of Manhattan’s Peace Plaza East (in the international, brutal style, of course)?

Will all (P)olitics, (H)istory, (A)rt and (S)cience finally be united in the utopia to come?

We shall have to wait and see.

Possibly related:

The Founder Of Peace Pavilion West-The Early Years

Repost-Cass Sunstein At The New Republic: ‘Why Paternalism Is Your Friend’

Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Who Wants To Help Build A Technocracy? Repost-Megan McArdle At The Daily Beast: ‘The Technocratic Dilemma’

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

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

Gurri offers an interesting take on matters socio-cultural:

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

Hmmm…:

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

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

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

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

Two Kinds Of Elite Cities in America?

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

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

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

Weber:

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

———————-

As previously posted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just thought I’d Throw This In There:

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

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

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

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

V. Physical Comparison With Professors And Others

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

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

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

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

 

Repost-Via C-SPAN-The Historical Context Of Allan Bloom

Click here.

Thanks to a reader.

Quite a varied discussion on Bloom’s surprise 1987 bestseller: ‘The Closing Of The American Mind

Does rock/popular music corrupt the souls of youth in preventing them from evening-out the passions; from pursuing higher things that a quality humanities education can offer?

Might such a lack allow political ideology to offer young people something to do, something to be, and something of which to be a part?

A questioning of premises, with varied disagreement, including that from an Emersonian.

Related On This Site:

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

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

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

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

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