Not Really Science, Kinda Like A Religion-Some Eco-Links & A Discussion Of Adam Smith

First, from Darwinian Conservatism: On the Question of Religion and Ethics, Adam Smith Was the Last Esoteric Writer:

…”yes, a God-like being plays a central role in Smith’s ethics.”  In making that argument, he believes that he is in agreement with a long list of Smith scholars, and I am on that list.

Whether or not it’s the new Technocratic (S)cientific Consensus of (M)an, or the new Gospels of (M)an, we might want to remember much of the context the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers had.

I hope we don’t get too esoteric and Straussian.

Because you didn’t ask:

I think of enviro-preachers more on the Gospel side of things. They move like unwell country pastors, seeking-out soapboxes near the Sunday Service.

Is he still married?’ Doesn’t he live out near Cooper’s farm?’

The original sin is industrialization, you see, and we are all sinners. The cure always seems to be more Humanist/Anti-Humanist gospel. Liberal idealists hate to be caught too close to such utopian, poorly-groomed men, where questionable dressing habits usually indicate a (C)ommitment the (C)ause.

‘I hear he rides his e-bike eighteen miles one-way from Stockbridge to buy ox-meat.

‘“Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails.

Out: Older kooks with older media.

In: Newer kooks, whose mental instability is therapeutic, and a sign of passionate authenticity:

Tim Black at Spiked: “The Ongoing Creation Of Greta Thunberg.

‘It is all very disconcerting. From her breakdown, to her recitation of carbon-emission facts, the Greta that emerges in Our House is on Fire doesn’t feel like an individual. She feels like a fictional device. A God’s fool-style character, descended down to Earth to expose our folly.’

Come on down!

Shit! Tell me you didn’t buy a house with The GovCo Collective Housing & Blackrock Authority?

It’s built on an environmentalist burial ground!

Traditional Views, Consequences, And Who’s Going To Drive The Car? Some Links

Tyler Cowen and Eric Weinstein have a discussion.  Recommended.

Cowen mentions something I’ve often thought:  Changing institutions to include female representation will have costs and benefits, and change the character of many institutions themselves, and many parts of our civilization (marriage, incentives, parenthood, politics etc).  Pretty unremarkable, but a highly charged and consequential topic nonetheless.

Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss

Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone‘, seems to agree with Charles 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.

You don’t have to agree with all of the ideas, but traditional views have their merits:

Bing West on women in ground combat from the previous administration:

‘In sum, the Joint Chiefs have taken a clear long-term risk for an unclear near-term political gain, perhaps hoping to diminish budgetary cuts. The question is whether increasing the individual rights of the female soldier decreases the combined combat effectiveness of the killing pack. We won’t know the answer until we fight a hard ground war sometime in the future.’

Something many Boomers probably still take for granted: If you have a sexual, moral and political liberation movement sweep parts of your civilization (generation of ’68), there are gonna be some consequences, good and bad.  Some radicals and social revolutionaries (professing to not believe in the legitimacy of any institution) will join and co-opt many parts of the institutions themselves; enjoying the sudden stability, influence and money gained.

The institutions, however, may arguably become less stable, so a previous stability might have been taken for granted by those Boomers.

I usually prize stability, moral decency, slow change, and rule of law (political/economic freedom) more than any one cause.

It’s probably a matter of time until you get a counter-revolution, and what worries me is a less stable system overall.

It can still be pretty funny, however.

How much are we like Britain anyways?  

Subject: ‘Is England Still Influencing America?’ on Hitchens’ book ‘Blood, Class, & Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies‘ when Hitchens’ was pushing the idea that ’empire’ was the primary transmission, apparently due to his ideological commitments at the time. America must have seemed a classless paradise with institutions well-functioning and ripe to achieve justice and equality for the whole world…for some folks in the Generation of ’68.

The Problems Are Deep Within Us, So Try And Get The Incentives Right

A reader sends a link to The Confessions Of Bernhard Goetz, subway vigilante:

There’s a lot here: Genuine threat (thugs), fear, real victimization (previous muggings and a likely soon-to-be mugging), but also serious ignorance and over-reaction.

I imagine Goetz was a bit like a feral animal fleeing out of that subway car, up the station stairs and into the night.

From min 33:40:

The question to be litigated was whether the community would make a judgment about his (Goetz) own good faith belief….are we in a position to condemn him for over-reacting?

On that note: So bad, but awfully good at satisfying an urge. The cinematic glorification of vigilantism can make victims of plot and good character development:

The crime back then was so bad that some citizens stood up to protect their own and others, defying police and transit authorities.

Who can you really trust?

So much high and low in a big city, so much to learn about turf, risk and danger:

There’s a way through here, where the good people and the good in people can flourish, without insitutional incentives getting in the way.

Heather MacDonald: ‘The War On Cops’. C-Span interview with MacDonald on the book here.  She also points out that Compstat isn’t really going anywhere: ‘Prosecution Gets Smart:

Computational Criminology And Predictive Policing.

‘Computational criminology seeks to address criminological problems through the use of applied mathematics, computer science and criminology. Methods include algorithms, data mining, data structures and software development.’

Limited Resources + Potentially Imminent Risk/Harm + Repeat Offenders/Learned Skills + Violence + Lots Of Room For Error = Too Much Practical Upside To Not Adopt Additional Means Of Fighting Crime.

Via Marginal Revolution: ‘Neural Network Learns To Identify Criminals By Their Faces

A move towards rationalism (hands-off technocratic leadership) and activism will mean more impersonal surveillance, cameras, and more data-gathering by identity category. Often, this will mean less physical security and targeted law enforcement in many areas (it will fall on deaf ears that the evil in human hearts will always be with us, that it needs to be met with courage and isn’t always caused by Nazis). Leftists tend to gather around injustice (their own real and perceived injustices) and identify victims (against the oppressor) in endless lurching towards liberation and praxis.

Mildly To Marginally Related: American city-politics can be…pretty rough..and for generations partly to mostly corrupt:

Via David Thompson-Chicago Murder Stats in one place.

Where not to go in San Francisco?

As posted:

Is NYC really like the rest of the country?:

Beauty, ugliness, youth, strength, and decay: Via Mick Hartley Bruce Davidson at Magnum’s ‘Subway‘.

Many of the images in Subway are sensual, dangerous and raw, but then again, so was the NYC subway in about 1979 or 1980. Davidson plays with different exposures, techniques and settings, eventually deciding on using color to depict what he saw. He also reportedly toned-up physically, geared-up, and mentally prepared himself to get off and on those subway cars during the project. He had some undercover city cops with him a few times.

Imagine how conspicuous a new Nikon/Canon DSLR and a flash would make you in one of those cars at night (he, in fact, had one camera stolen).

Come for the raw, dangerous subject matter and the vicarious risk (oh yeah, it can happen again…just stay tuned). Stay for Davidson’s compositions, subtle use of light and color, and the genuine humanity he found within his larger vision.

Is a certain dangerous, glamorous adventure beneath you?

What about in your prime?

Martin Gurri & Patrick Deneen-Some Links & A Few Thoughts

Martin Gurri has a piece on the humility of an analyst and the limits of ideas. Truth & Its Consequences.

Reasonably smart people and relatively deep thinkers feel the need to matter, just like everyone. They also feel the need to explain.

How much do you really know?

Patrick Deneen discusses recovering the ancients to re-orient the present and modernity towards flourishing (likely on the Straussian curve). The elites and the people each have their talents, but right now everyone seems to be either within or against a faltering structure of elites.

Is that really what’s going on?

There are people who can, and people who can’t. There are rules and ‘rule-following punishers’. There is constant reinforcement of what is good and what is not, and there are ends contained within ideas. We’re now selecting for abstract, symbolic and practical intelligence very strongly, and very early on.

But what about virtue amongst institutions full with a lot of virtue-signalling? What about small towns?

Oh, there will be ambitious people, strong and smart people, and warriors. But what about when people are or become rotten in some way? Or wrong and there too long? What constrains the folks making more important decisions and what constrains people downstream of them (from becoming violent, especially)?

A lot of folks on the dissident right see libertarianism/liberalism as two sides of the same, modern coin. Some folks on the far right live in identity politics and power-all-the-way-down theories (a natural reaction to the Hitler-year-zero Left…though some of it was always there…here I go again on the Straussian curve). Others are pointing out the virtues of neo-feudalism and monarchism (power matters) while still others are Catholics (certainly a hierarchy there).

There’s a lot of searching. Dear Reader, I still have my doubts.

Food for thought. Thanks for reading. I’m busy with life and work, mostly.

I wish you all the best.

Causes & Rackets: About Those Foundations & Academies-Turning Piles Of Poetry Money Into Jargon

Via Joseph Massey via The Poetry Foundation:

You could kinda see this coming:

‘In the Letter of Commitment, the Foundation staff and the Board pledged action in response to the June Community Letter’s call for us to become proactively antiracist. The Foundation is grateful to these poetry communities for continuing to hold it accountable, as it speaks to a belief in the capacity for change. The Foundation holds itself accountable as well, and has begun to move forward with short- and long-term equity efforts.

Such bad use of language!

Blink if you can hear me.

The money which someone earned in the world, often passed down to those who didn’t earn the money, is further donated to those who haven’t earned the respect of poets. Often, the support a decent poet needs to get better is diverted to the loudest voices in the organization and wasteful, bureauratic, mastubatory ends.

I think the best response is just posting good poetry. Maybe it strikes you, maybe it doesn’t.

As posted:

Alas, the Mellon Foundation?

‘Elizabeth Alexander never expected to go into philanthropy. Now she’s in her third year as the president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the largest supporter of the humanities and the arts in the U.S., where she’s quickly applied her vision to foster a more just society.’

Via Mellon’s Website bio, regarding Alexander’s work at the Ford Foundation:

There, she co-designed the Art for Justice Fund—an initiative that uses art and advocacy to address the crisis of mass incarceration—and guided the organization in examining how the arts and visual storytelling can empower communities.’

I like the idea that poems are actually not supposed to engage you in direct action, neither political, nor personal.  They usually take some work to understand, but they can come alive on the tongue and live like wisdom in the brain for years.

As posted:

Adam Kirsch On Elizabeth Alexander’s Bureaucratic Verse

Kirsch was not so impressed with the 2009 inauguration ceremony nor Elizabeth Alexander’s use of poetry to commerorate political power:

‘In our democratic age, however, poets have always had scruples about exalting leaders in verse. Since the French Revolution, there have been great public poems in English, but almost no great official poems. For modern lyric poets, whose first obligation is to the truth of their own experience, it has only been possible to write well on public themes when the public intersects, or interferes, with that experience–when history usurps privacy.’

Also, as posted:

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, overwhelming 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.’

And still also more on institutional capture and old piles of money, as posted:

Full review here.

Jack Shakely on Ken Stern:

‘Ken Stern knows an awful lot about nonprofits, having spent the better part of a decade as chief operating officer, then president of NPR, one of the best-known, and controversial, nonprofits in America.’

Charity has limits.

This blog likes to keep an eye on NPR, as they’re a child of the 60’s, and but for the work of LBJ’s Great Society lobbying to include ‘radio’ in the Public Television Act of 1967, they might not be around. Many NPR stories, in reaching out to the wider world, often return to the touchstones of feminism, environmentalism and some form of diversity multiculturalism. Amidst high standards for journalism and production values lies the tendency towards positive definitions of equality, justice and peace. They tend to assume their ideals are your ideals as they filter new input from the world.

In turn, many feminists, environmentalists, and multiculturalists/activists rely on foundation money and/or private donations, and/or public institutions, for survival. They aim for broad definitions of the public good, and seek to influence both the culture and political outcomes.

Everyone’s starting a non-profit these days:

‘The ability to survive, even thrive, with programs that have been proven not to work is just one of the many oddities ‘With Charity for All’ documents in the topsy-turvy, misunderstood, and mostly ignored world of nonprofits’

Non-profits have become big business, partially following the ‘greatness model’ that worked so well for the boomers, when the getting was good. Unfortunately, there are limits to any model, and we’ve got serious economic issues and a lot of political dysfunction. The money has to come from somewhere.

Shakely again:

‘To clean up the messy nonprofit landscape, Stern offers some suggestions that are sure to cause concern in some nonprofit quarters, including increased government oversight, increasing the application fee to cover the cost of better IRS review and, most radical of all, putting a life span on the charitable status afforded nonprofits, then requiring a renewal after a certain period of time (maybe 10 years). It’s an admirable goal, but in a sector where the stated goal of private foundations is self-preservation and “once a charity; always a charity,” is the mantra, it ain’t gonna happen. Stern knows this, of course, but it doesn’t stop him from asking this and many other valid questions about a sector that is loath to engage in self-evaluation’

It may be as simple as following the money.

On Stern’s third point, putting a life span on the charitable status afforded nonprofits, Stern might agree with David Horowitz, of all people. He’s a red-diaper baby, an ex-Marxist activist cum anti-Leftist, anti-Communist crusader. Making foundations and constantly agitating is what he knows how to do.

He had a then a new book out entitled: ‘The New Leviathan, How The Left Wing Money-Machine Shapes American Politics And Threatens America’s Future

Horowitz argues that such foundations as Ford (which donates to NPR) have become vehicles for the interests of political activists, portraying the matter of as a fight between capitalism/anti-capitalism and/or socialism. He mentions the Tides foundation here. They are big money, he points out, and Obama’s political career was largely made possible by activist political organization, and the money and manpower behind them:

——————–

Stern and Horowitz potentially agreeing on some regulation of non-profits makes for strange bedfellows. Obama, true to form, was seeking a permanent form of activism. Activists, and the political idealists with whom they often find common cause, often don’t produce anything of value independently, and must rely upon existing institutions for their support.

It’s worth thinking about who wants to be in charge, and why, and what that means for everyone else. Following the money never hurts, and it’s a necessary evil, just a politics is. If you tend to agree with the ideals, you tend to focus on the sausage, not how it’s getting made.

This blog wants to focus on what keeps our society open, healthy and dynamic, and what maintains our political and economic freedoms. The pie ought to be growing.

It’s 1968 all over again, see Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s…

Related On This Site: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

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

Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…How Would Obama Respond To Milton Friedman’s Four Ways To Spend Money?

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

The market will make people better off, but always leaves them wanting more and in a state of spiritual malaise, which invites constant meddling. Can economic freedom and free markets reconcile the moral depth of progressive big-State human freedom: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art. The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so… ….here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment… ——–   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.New liberty away from Hobbes?: 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’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Via A Reader-‘John Searle On The Philosophy Of Language’

Via a readerJohn Searle on The Philosophy Of Language as part of Bryan Magee’s series:

It’s always a pleasure to observe someone with deep understanding explain a subject clearly.

There’s some interesting discussion on modernism and postmodernism too, or the tendency for the ‘moderns’ to focus on language itself as a problem to be re-examined and possibly solved, or the study of linguistics to be put upon a foundation similar to that of many sciences.

As we’ve seen in the arts, the poem, a novel, the very written words themselves can become subjects which poets, novelists, and writers examine, doubt, and in some cases ‘deconstruct.’

As to that tribe in South America, cited as evidence against Chomsky’s claims of necessary recursion and the existence of a universal grammar, Searle has some things to say in the interview below.

As previously posted: Paul Ibbotson & Michael Tomasello at Scientific American: ‘Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory Of Language Learning:’

But evidence has overtaken Chomsky’s theory, which has been inching toward a slow death for years. It is dying so slowly because, as physicist Max Planck once noted, older scholars tend to hang on to the old ways: “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”

Worth a read.

As posted:  Caitlin Flanagan reviews Tom Wolfe’s new book ‘The Kingdom Of Speech.‘ Jerry Coyne, ecologist, writing in the Washington Post, was not impressed:

“Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”The Politics Of Noam Chomsky-The Dangers Of Kantian Transcendental Idealism?

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

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Some Updated Links On Postmodernism…Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism…And Truth’

A Bleak, Modern House-Four Poems

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Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Miles Burnyeat On Plato’…Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘John Passmore on Hume: Section 1’

Some Quotes From Ken Minogue In The Servile Mind & Some Past Links-‘Social Sentimentalism’

‘Here we find ourselves dealing with a new and powerful movement in Western civilization. We may call it ‘social sentimentalism, ‘ and its reach extends far beyond the issues of antidiscrimination…’

In calling this new form of compassion ‘sentimentalism,’ I am pointing to the abstract character of the feelings commonly involved. They are feelings that relate not to specific cases, but to abstract categories, and the actual circumstances of those people who find themselves in these categories will be very various indeed.’

Sentimentalism is clearly spun out of the Romantic movement, which I am inclined to date from Jean Jacques Rousseau’s propensity to deal with the ills of the world…’

One common account of its founding assumptions is to say that it is the belief that human beings are naturally good, and that their evil acts result from misery and desperation induced by a disordered society.

‘The cause must lie (runs the belief) in some inner derangement, some addiction or mental disorder that ought to be subject to professional help. Here is the line of thought, then, that leads to treating all human ills in therapeutic terms, and crimes and sins as disorders requiring rehabilitation rather than as moral acts deserving punishment.’

Minogue, Kenneth. The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes The Moral Life. Encounter Books. 2010. Print. (Pg 96-97).

As posted.

Alas:

Roger Sandall’s book: ‘The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism And Other Essays‘ here.

A follow-up essay here springing from a discussion: ‘The Culture Cult revisited’

Sandall:

But in the year 2000, with Fascism and Communism both discredited, why, I wondered, were so many turning back toward Rousseau? What was the attraction of romantic primitivism? How had ethnic culture become a beau ideal? Cities certainly have their problems, but why did New Yorkers see tribal societies as exemplary and tribespeople as paragons of social virtue?’

If you do manage to develop a bedrock of secular humanism in civil society (subject to that society’s particular traditions and history), won’t that society still have need of its own myths?

Even though Fascism and Communism have been discredited in theory and in practice, adherents remain (look no further than most American academies).

Sandall notes the Popperian elements discussed as from ‘The Open Society And Its Enemies‘, which as a theory, stretches deep into human nature and the West’s Greek traditions.

Is Popper’s ‘critical rationalism’ some of what we’re seeing from the intellectual dark-webbers, or at least many bright people pushing against the fascistic elements found within many far-Left movements, just those movements endorse and feed a far-right, identitarian and ideological response?:

‘…the people and institutions of the open society that Popper envisioned would be imbued with the same critical spirit that marks natural science, an attitude which Popper called critical rationalism. This openness to analysis and questioning was expected to foster social and political progress as well as to provide a political context that would allow the sciences to flourish.’

Sandall again on Popper:

‘His 1945 The Open Society and Its Enemies started out from the contrast between closed autarkic Sparta and free-trading protean Athens, and used it to illuminate the conflict between Fascism and Communism on the one hand, and Western democracy on the other.’

but…:

‘Is an ‘open society’ also supposed to be an ‘open polity’ with open borders? Médecins sans Frontières is all very well: but states cannot be run on such lines. Popper’s is a theory of society, not a theory of the state—and it seems to me that his book offers no clear account of the wider political preconditions that enable ‘open societies’ to both flourish and defend themselves.’

So, how did Sandall see the idea of ‘culture’ having its orgins?:

‘But at a higher philosophical level, and starting out in England, it owed more to the energetic publicising of Herder’s ideas by the Oxford celebrity Sir Isaiah Berlin — ideas of irresistible appeal to the post-Marxist and post-religious liberal mind.’

Open borders and open societies? A desire a ‘culture’ has to forge and solidify its own identity?

Kelley Ross (open border libertarian last I checked) responds to a correspondent on 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.

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. ‘

Back to Sandall:

‘Then something happened: the English word “culture” in the sense employed by Matthew Arnold in his 1869 Culture and Anarchy got both anthropologized and Germanised — and anthropological culture was the opposite of all that. It meant little more in fact than a social system.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

A rather tangled web indeed…

Further entanglements on this site, possibly related:

Tom Wolfe on Max Weber on one conspicuous use of art in the ‘modern’ world:

aesthetics is going to replace ethics, art is going to replace religion, as the means through which educated people express their spiritual worthiness…

From Edward Feser: ‘Jackson on Popper on materialism

‘Popper’s World 3 is in some respects reminiscent of Plato’s realm of the Forms, but differs in that Popper takes World 3 to be something man-made. As I noted in the earlier post just linked to, this makes his positon at least somewhat comparable the Aristotelian realist (as opposed to Platonic realist) view that universals are abstracted by the mind from the concrete objects that instantiate them rather than pre-existing such abstraction.’

Quite a comment thread over there…

Popper:

…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

Related On This Site:Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism…

Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Miles Burnyeat On Plato’Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

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

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?’

Fred Siegel On The German Influence And Kelley Ross On Some Of Roger Scruton’s Thinking

A Few Links To Edward Feser On Plato & A Few Thoughts On Twitter & Photography

Dear Reader:

From Edward Feser: ‘Plato On Democracy & Tyranny

I posted a long thread of passages from Plato’s Republic setting out his account of how a democratic society’s fixation on liberty and equality yields the tyrannical soul.  You can read the thread here.’

See more from this site here.

Should you trust Twitter?: Twitter relies upon compressed messaging (the medium is the message) and reasonably sticky UI (user interface). This promotes a ‘bubbled’ user experience, presumably to capture mid- and lower- range users (reply to your favorite popular node NOW!). As a user, you can gain a lot of access to information you might want. Some people can’t afford not to pay attention.

Such an approach also incentivizes immediate and almost ridiculous misunderstanding in the replies. Deeper ideas aren’t explored particularly well nor is actual human communication and understanding established on Twitter (lots of empty calories). Popularity and knowledge/wisdom seem only tangentially correlated. Political divides deepen.

Add in the difficulty of policing a ridiculously large network (only AI can monitor channels in the aggregate along with incentivized snitching by many of the worst users). Include an inchoate rule set and unclear enforcement, lots of bots, and a pretty well-established Left activist bias, and you have a platform I wouldn’t mind seeing replaced with…

…something else.

Thanks for reading thus far. You’re patient. And kind.

What I’ve learned about photography as a hobbyist:

-Light is fascinating, The more you observe, the more you learn. Your brain, eye and awareness all change. You begin to visualize more quickly and clearly, anticipating what’s to come in the future.

-People can be fascinating. The more you observe, the more you learn (it isn’t always what you think).

-Snapping photos, one tends to float about outside normal human interaction on the street, camera in tow (the mark of Cain). This can alienate you and it’s not always an honorable way to live. Try to not be an asshole.

-The best photographers have ridiculously good technical and compositional skills (everything in its place and a place for everything). The best photographs have a combination of great composition and great subject (content). A moment comes together, and is rendered in such a way as to seize your imagination.

With your iPhone I suppose you could chance upon a brilliant photograph, but your chances are very slim to none. Like all of us, you could increase your number of decent photographs, then good photographs, then a few excellent ones.

Masterful? Probably not. Technology is usually not going to be any more than you make it.

Via a reader: Saul Leiter’s photographs are well-composed, layered, with excellent use of color. They are like paintings. Abstract Expressionism was hot in the painting world, and it shows. He didn’t pursue too much attention, making some great images with the tools he chose, in search of beauty:

There’s Been A Lot Of Questionable Stewardship-Sam Harris On Trump & A Link On Postmodernism

Videos sent in from readers:

Here’s Sam Harris apparently following the TDS logic where it leads (towards a Left-authoritarian political populism, while using the truth/knowledge claims of the social sciences to justify going great guns against Trump).

Here are some speculative inferences on my part:

  1. People become enmeshed in their medium, their practice, and within the complex feedback loop of maintaining a popular program and an audience. Such folks must become what they do, to some extent. Harris strikes me as more reasonably honest than most, but if you float on a current you’ve helped create long enough…some of your blind spots will surface as well.
  2. Harris is quite iconoclastic and brave in speaking out against many shibboleths of the Left. He also still calls himself a man of the Left (not IDW per se, not ‘classically liberal’ etc.). Emotionally, it would be understandable to try and bridge this gap.
  3. Harris argues that reason can scale (true in some respects), and that religious belief can twist men (true in some respects) into becoming more irrational than they would otherwise be. Personally, it’s not evident that New Atheism and ‘rationality’ scale into governing nor authoritative bodies without what’s obviously happening now: A devolution of the public square into less civility (to which Trump has contributed), potentially justified violence, and a new Statism forming out of radical Self-hood and liberation movements. It’s not clear you get rationality and Left populism without radicals (condoning violence), true-believing activists, well-meaning liberal idealists attacked from the Left, and the New Authority (stifling speech and using the laws to punish political enemies). This tells me the underlying map of human nature is wrong, and that many elements of reality are poorly calibrated.

On this site, see:

To the firm believer in this idea of ‘rationality,’ the spectacle of human behaviour (in himself and in others) departing from its norm may be expected to confirm his suspicion that ‘rational’ conduct of this sort is difficult, but not to shake his faith in its possibility and desirability.  He will deplore the unregulated conduct which, because it is externally unregulated, he will think of as ‘irrational.’  But it will always be difficult for him to entertain the notion that what he identified as ‘rational’ conduct is in fact impossible, not because it is liable to be swamped by ‘insane and irrational springs of wickedness in most men,’ but because it involves a misrepresentation of the nature of human conduct.’

and:

‘Among the other evidences of Rationalism in contemporary politics, may be counted the commonly admitted claim of the ‘scientist, as such (the chemist, the physicist, the economist or the psychologist) to be heard in politics; because, though the knowledge involved in a science is always more than technical knowledge, what it has to offer to politics is never more than a technique.’

Oakeshott, Michael.  Rationalism In Politics And Other Essays. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1991. Print.

Personally, I tend to think of a few nodes of change in a society from which new thinking and ideas emerge.

Enlightenment Natural Philosophy becoming different branches of science and computing technology: Really smart and driven people contributing to scientific discovery and coming to fruition within these fields of study. There has been a lot of progress here, and the rate of change is affecting all of us every single day (just wait until the next war and the assistive automation that will be deployed).

Philosophers and idea men in metaphysics: Synthesizers of ideas and sometimes creators of their own. This can also include popularizers of other men’s ideas and idea men leading others where they’d like them to go.

The arts and artistic movements: A lot of new thinking and thought arises out of artistic innovation and loosely affiliated bands of artistic creators. A lot of what ‘cool’ is regarding popular culture happens here, as well as inspiring generations. Good art speaks to our souls.

All of this can make it harder to appreciate what’s so important to conserve.

Another video sent in from a reader:

A lot of people consider themselves as outside any tradition or practice, or institution, animating against such things. Such ideas and people following them are responsible for how and why the last few generations of humanities have been taught in our institutions, and the failure of many of those institutions.

There’s been a lot of bad stewardship.

It’s nice to see some pushback against the zeal of ‘activist’ and New Atheism, as well as eliminative materialism. Humanism can become anti-humanist after all, especially among environmentalists (some secular doomsday groups know how many people is enough).

But radical humanism, or renewed faith in humanism, must still ground itself in claims to knowledge and truth, in rationality, or in some thinking which can maintain civil society and mediate other competing claims according to its lights.  Why and how should humanists manage the public square?

Repost-Roger Scruton ‘Farewell To Judgment’

Full article here.

So what’s lacking in the humanities?  Roger Scruton had some keen insights:

“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”

So forget the recent, and rather desperate, attempts to make the humanities into a science  (however…it’s been done before with some success).  Scruton suggests it’s been a long slide for the humanities to arrive where they’ve arrived:

“In the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”

And now that we’re left with somewhat balkanized and politicized departments of English, these departments have become a target of the political right, dragging many people into a nasty fight that eats up political capital:

“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.”

So how to restore the vision? Scruton advised to restore (and not eschew) judgment:

Of course, Shakespeare invites judgment, as do all writers of fiction. But it is not political judgment that is relevant. We judge Shakespeare plays in terms of their expressiveness, truth to life, profundity, and beauty.”

This is deep insight and I think the better part of Scruton’s thinking in the article comes when he resisted his own political (anti multi-cultural, pro-conservative, pro-church of England conservatism) impulses.  Here are the last few lines:

“It will require a confrontation with the culture of youth, and an insistence that the real purpose of universities is not to flatter the tastes of those who arrive there, but to present them with a rite of passage into something better.”

One could argue that this is necessary though how to arrive there is in doubt.

Here’s a quote from George Santayana:

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

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On another note:  Despite the importance of beauty, the refinement of our experiences through poems and prose, the difficult work of cultivating”taste” for ourselves as well providing a rite of passage for our youth:  Aren’t we still attaching the humanities to something else?

We know the humanities will never be a science.  Politics is always in conflict with the arts.   Much philosophy is indifferent to the humanities at best.   In fact, Plato was quite suspicious of their influence on the republic (good overview here).

One target here may be somewhat political as well:  anti-social constructionism and anti-multiculturalism, though I am speculating.

Just some food for thought.

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

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

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

Scruton again has deep insight, but will Christian religious idealism have to bump heads with Islamic religious idealism?: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Thanks to iri5