Tom Wolfe

Celebrity, The Romantically Primitive, Modern Art & Money: Douglas Murray’s Take On Jean-Michel Basquiat

Full piece here.

Perhaps there are enclaves in NYC’s commercial bustle where people can lead lives less burdened by the racial history of the U.S., in addition to bettering their lot.  Perhaps there are freedoms and opportunities not found in other quarters, either, which have been nurtured by this extended culture.  There are schools, like minds, and fellow artists to develop alongside.  New York City’s a cultural center, after all.

Despite the decadence and grime, the many fakes, fops, and wannabes drawn to the flame, there is genuine talent and potential genius.

There are also the temptations and realities of celebrity, the creative destruction and ruthlessness of the market, as well as ideas in the modern bubble which can actively discourage artistic development (the incentives and meta-bullshit of a lot of modern art galleries and buyers, the desire for the genius of the Noble Savage).

I believe this is Briton Douglas Murray’s (The Strange Death Of Europe) argument regarding enfant terrible of the 80’s Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Whatever natural talent Basquiat may have had, and however much the larger culture thought itself supposedly ready to celebrate such an artist, it is a mess.

Basquiat, through relentless self-promotion, found himself blown up like a balloon over 5th avenue.

Murray:

‘It was not obvious that Basquiat would end up the producer of such trophies. Born in Brooklyn in 1960, he left school at 17 and first gained attention through his co-invention, with a friend, of a character called “SAMO.” Graffiti signed with this name cropped up in SoHo and on the Lower East Side in 1978.’

and:

‘Friends claimed that Basquiat was famously independent of mind and that nobody could tell him what to do. They should at least have tried. If they had said at the outset that, instead of dealing his work, they would help him learn the skills needed to pursue it, then he might not have banged his head so visibly and continuously against his own limitations throughout his short career. Perhaps he understood that he was only getting away with something and worried when it might end. Far greater artists than he have had similar fears and been brought down by them.’

Speaking of balloons and balloon-dogs:  Within A Bank Of Modern Fog-Robert Hughes On Jeff Koons

Two quotes by Hughes that stood out:

Religion is diminished into celebrity..a kind of reverse apotheosis.

‘This alienation of the work from the common viewer is actually a form of spiritual vandalism.’

It’s tough to say that art is really about religion (though much clearly is), but rather more about an experience Hughes wants as many people as possible to have, and that such experiences can elevate and expand.

On that note, some previous links and quotes:

Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism. From the banner of his blog:

‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’

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…

Somewhere apart from Medieval, Christian, Classical and pre-Enlightenment forms of authority and social hierarchy; somewhere away from the kinds of patronage, inspiration, rules, money that bent and shaped previous Art, emerged the Enlightenment and came the Romantic, Modern, and Postmodern.

***As for ideas to fill the holes, there’s definitely one path from Hegelian ‘Geist’ to Marxist class-consciousness to the revolutionary and radical doctrines found in the postmodern soup…but there are also problems with the liberation of the ‘Self’ from Schopenhauer’s ‘Will’ to Nietzsche ‘Will to Power.’

Thanks, reader:

Is street-art, or the use of graffiti & mixed-materials performed illegally out in public (on public and privately owned property) partly due to the success of capital markets?

-Banksy’s website here.

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

Response To A Reader On ‘Radical Chic’ And A Link to Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’

God or no God, please deliver us from tired political philosophies:

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.

Choose the form of your destructor:

Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..

Denis Dutton suggests art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

One More Revolution-Venezuela, New Yorkers, And Visions Of Ideal Societies

Alas, the New Yorker is having to come to terms with the mess in Venezuela…:

Sometimes I find myself wondering how the mission of supporting the arts and experimental literature got mixed-up with such political ideas over at the New Yorker (well-educated readers, aesthetes, writers, cultural critics etc) who seem to be viewing the failures of Venezuela from a very foggy Overton window indeed.

Part of this is due to the institutionalization and white-washing of the activities of many radicals and would-be radicals, revolutionaries and would-be revolutionaries from the late 60’s onwards here in the U.S.  Organizations like the Weathermen talked something of a game:  Appealing to the injustice of the draft while protesting the Vietnam War and aiming for ‘pure’ majoritarian democracy, but such appeals couldn’t mask the necessity of making criminal political bedfellows, spouting violent rhetoric and even devolving into terrorism and murder in the name of their ideas.

Okay, maybe it’s pretty simple…:

Here’s one senior New Yorker editor, Hendrik Hertzberg, discussing years ago how to abolish the Electoral College, arrive at a National Vote (to better serve the People, of course) and enact ‘democratic change.’

This strikes me as in-line with much Left and Left-liberal majoritarian populism. activism and softly (ultimately hard) radical change.

More on Venezuela:

Thanks to the New Criterion, they’ve recycled an Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple) review of two books on the subject:

Man is born rich, but almost everywhere is poor:’

A response to one of my comments found on Alexandria, where I used to blog, on Hugo Chavez:

‘Chavez is actually not an orthodox Marxist in the sense that Marx would have recognized (which was why I linked to the sort of Marxist ‘prophecy’ of people like Chavez from the ‘Eighteenth Brumaire’). Chavez is more along the lines of what traditional Marxists referred to as ‘Bonapartist’ (borrowing from the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte). The whole theory on which Chavez based his political life was that the working class (or what passed for it, in a country like Venezuela) *could not* make a revolution on its own, and that someone else (the military and the Socialist Party, led by him) needed to make the revolution for them. For the very reasons that Bourdieu and Marx hint at in the quotations above. A ‘revolution from above’, in other words.

Where Chavez (and a number of other left-wing Latin American strongmen over the last century) departed radically from orthodox Marxist theory, is that Marx saw Bonapartism as essentially a conservative (thought not a bourgeois) strategy, by which military cliques delude the poor into supporting them, by promising to protect them against the bourgeoisie, and using paternalistic rhetoric. Chavez is, of course, a man of the left, as was his political inspiration, the mid-20th century Peruvian leader General Velasco. Marx seems to have been wrong about ‘revolutions from above’: sometimes they can be genuinely left-wing, and in a lot of cases (including Venezuela) they’re the only serious left-wing option on offer.’

Christopher Hitchens at Slate-Hugo Boss:

‘The boss loves to talk and has clocked up speeches of Castro-like length. Bolívar is the theme of which he never tires. His early uniformed movement of mutineers—which failed to bring off a military coup in 1992—was named for Bolívar.’

If we’re going to have a chattering class of middlebrow know-nothings, can we at least ask they know the right somethings?:

—————–

It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

The Brutalist Anglosphere Blues-Sometimes It’s Not Even The Art, But The People Gathering Around The Art Which Can Be So Fun To Criticize-Ok, Sometimes It’s The Art

I eagerly await commentary pointing how good some of the art is, and how shot through with ignorance the criticism is…:

Theodore Dalrymple (a Brit visiting Australia):

Via Mick Hartley (a Brit in Britain): Photo set and link here. Eric Tabuchi homepage here.

Clearly there are many ideas in the modern world deeply idealistic and utopian, which even officialdom can take up by way of architecture and the arts: Some people who commissioned Boston’s City Hall were probably thinking they were bringing something new and wonderful into the world: Inspiring, modern, transformative.

The folks at bureaucratic levels up-top would steer this concrete ship, scanning the Horizon for The Future. The People down below, justly and benevolently guided, would feel welcome and do people-y, citizen-y things as though in a terrarium.

Maybe that’s why it’s not so popular.

Well, at least it isn’t Buzludzha, The Communist Spaceship plopped down as though from a world of Pure Ideology, Nature properly subdued:

As previously posted:

–Visit Lileks.com. A fine humorist with a sharp pen and a keen eye (American in America).

Here’s Australian art critic Robert Hughes (Aussie in America) discussing the Albany plaza, and almost hyperbolically criticizing the aims of modernist architecture.

***Fun fact, he pronounces the “Boogie Woogie” the “Boo-gie Woo-gie.”

Modernism goes to the movies.

Some pictures at the link.

There’s mention of the Mt. Rushmore house at the end of North By Northwest. I suspect some among us have wanted to live in a modernist lair.

From an article in Der Spiegel on the Bauhaus, where modernism got its start:

‘The real feat achieved by Gropius and his cohorts was to have recognized and exposed the sociopolitical and moral power of architecture and design. They wanted to exert “effective influence” on “general conditions,” fashion a more just world and turn all of this into a “vital concern of the entire people.”‘

I don’t know, Picasso was pretty good, man:

See Also: They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’…Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Glass Altars And Temples Dedicated To The ‘Self’

From Mick Hartley: ‘Playing In The Gallery

‘It’s no surprise at all that the latest Turbine Hall installation at Tate Modern is a glorified playground

‘…The two quotes on the website give an idea of the level of desperation:

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the Turbine Hall… but I’ve never felt as exhilarated as I did on a swing installed here by Superflex” – Evening Standard.

“When you get on that swing – and I haven’t been on one for more years than I’d care to mention – you immediately reboot” – Donald Hyslop, exhibition curator.

These people need to get out more.’

Do we really need adults on swings?

I’ll try and remain neutral on ideas I think were once the radical and innovative syntheses of Romantic and Modern artists, thinkers, and schools, as they become institutionalized within museums dedicated to all things ‘Modern.’

It seems Man’s natural impulses towards the spiritual, the metaphysical, and the sharing (especially when kids are in tow) come to the fore in vague and navel-gazing types of ways.

It seems that this particular metaphysical legacy fails in important ways to deal with people (us) often as we are.

The Temple of the ‘Self’ has many altars, and I get more than a hint of the pathetic, the ignorant, and whiffs of authoritarianism at these types of things.

***Of course, I don’t think it necessarily diminishes the quality of some works…the heights reached by particular individual Romantic and Modern artists and schools which have since arisen.


On that note, some previous links and quotes:

Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism. From the banner of his blog:

‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’

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…

Somewhere apart from Medieval, Christian, Classical and pre-Enlightenment forms of authority and social hierarchy; somewhere away from the kinds of patronage, inspiration, rules, money that bent and shaped previous Art, emerged the Enlightenment and came the Romantic, Modern, and Postmodern.

***As for ideas to fill the holes, there’s definitely one path from Hegelian ‘Geist’ to Marxist class-consciousness to the revolutionary and radical doctrines found in the postmodern soup…but there are also problems with the liberation of the ‘Self’ from Schopenhauer’s ‘Will’ to Nietzsche ‘Will to Power.’

Thanks, reader:

“Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”…

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

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?’

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

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

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

From Roger Sandall-‘A Curious Case Of Censorship’

Original piece from 1976 found here.

Mind you, this is Australia, but there’s probably a lot of overlap:

‘I don’t mean to suggest that every bright-eyed PhD candidate in anthropology today sees himself in a priestly role, or feels inspired by a religious vocation. Most are as sceptical of sorcery as of perdition. But what George Feaver has called the New Tribalism is a proud creed, and its gods are jealous gods. Syncretised with the pride and jealousy of the Old Tribalism the result is a powerful endorsement of totem and taboo…’

‘The Institute had been set up to “do science”, a secular activity. Yet in a curious way it has ended up “doing religion.” In its own eyes the Institute may have seen itself as a producer of scientific records; but in the eyes of Tribalism, both Old and New, its true role was that of a manufacturer of religious artifacts. And having become an archive of sacred objects it was hard to refuse doing priestly duty as the temple guardian as well. In this way a scientific body found itself gradually moving from the world of fact to the world of faith—and from the dull routines of research to the higher excitements of revivalism.’

We’ve got a lot of museum directors and academics I could see sinking into a kind of nebulous, humanist, institutional mysticism, quite frankly.

What many modernists and humanists can ignore are the deep impulses they have to make meaning, and to draw distinctions between the sacred and the profane, which in the West can manifest as a kind of sentimental Romanticization of Nature and Man (religious and anti-religious, truthfully).

Everyone wants to transcend and seek the timeless, the immortal, and the pure, I’m guessing.

There is a particular myth of the ‘Noble Savage,’ alive and well in the Western World, where the local tribesman or displaced native is celebrated as an exotic but worthy adversary, or some kind of anachronistic adornment.

This stuff can be true and inspiring in the arts, synthesized as part of the Romantic school:

Perhaps the native is to be included under the net of secular human idealism or given land, a casino or a museum somewhere on the Western Estate and left to many of his own devices (many further Left likely see a fellow oppressed class of victims with whom to feel solidarity on the way to radical and revolutionary freedom).

But certainly with the triumphs of trade and commerce, the many benefits and successes of Western expansion (the thousand injustices and brutalities of State and privately funded imperialism), comes a lot of doubt, guilt, and shame.

What is true and right?

How should I live and what should I do?

I can say Orwell has caused me to think, reflect, and honestly take a look at myself in the mirror.

——–

Much as the sciences require intellectual rigor, empirical evidence and much skepticism, there are bands of Western anti-science postmodernists in their wake, too, who can sink into a kind of nebulous modern mysticism, building museums as temples.

Just as there are humanists there are anti-humanists.

Perhaps not too much has changed.

Those Germans and their Idealism!: 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…

Update & Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’…From Roger Sandall: ‘The Slave Girl and the Professor’


As previously posted:

Full Misguided Nostagia for Our Paleo Past here.

‘The paleofantasy is a fantasy in part because it supposes that we humans, or at least our protohuman forebears, were at some point perfectly adapted to our environments. We apply this erroneous idea of evolution’s producing the ideal mesh between organism and surroundings to other life forms, too, not just to people.’

There’s a lot of confusion out there in the popular mind, apparently.  Fascinating discoveries going on right now in genetics, genome research, and evolutionary biology, to name a few.

Because nobody asked, I tend to be skeptical of the Noble Savage,  Rousseau’s State of Nature, and some products of the Nietzschean, tragic, romantic tradition in Europe.  There are also lots of folks milling around America seeking a kind of collectivist utopian harmony in nature, as well.

It can be a long ways to travel to get from Darwin back to God and organized religion (too far for many people) and this blog remains generally agnostic, defensive of the broad, but fragile, traditions necessary for civil society and individual liberty.

It can also be a long way from Darwin to arrive at Natural Rights, Locke’s life, liberty and property, as well as Roman and classical ideas of law and even to Montesquieu.

Check out Darwinian Conservatism, as Larry Arnhart is dealing with many of these ideas.  Here’s the banner from the site:

‘The Left has traditionally assumed that human nature is so malleable, so perfectible, that it can be shaped in almost any direction. By contrast, a Darwinian science of human nature supports traditionalist conservatives and classical liberals in their realist view of human imperfectibility, and in their commitment to ordered liberty as rooted in natural desires, cultural traditions, and prudential judgments.’

Related On This Site: What happens when you romanticize the aboriginal? Romantic primitivism: Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’

Some Updated Links On Postmodernism

Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

I have a soft spot for contrarian social scientists, like Charles Murray and Jonathan Haidt, pushing against what can so easily become an orthodoxy: Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People…

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?’

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

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’

A Link To Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Kingdom Of Speech’ And A Further-Left Cry Against ‘The Mythos Of The Mast Brothers’

Via a reader:  Caitlin Flanagan reviews Tom Wolfe’s new book ‘The Kingdom Of Speech.

Darwin and Chomsky have gotten it wrong, according to Wolfe, it’s speech that gives man his edge.

This will have its appeal, as does an apparent attack on many intellectuals in general:

‘Wolfe’s attack on Chomsky — whom he calls “Noam Charisma” — is precise, scathing and not undeserved. But what, Lord, does this have to do with the topic of language? Precious little. Thank God. But soon enough we’re back on the long march, learning about a Chomskyan principle called — ZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!! — “recursion” and how the language of a Brazilian tribe called the Pirahã presents a significant challenge to that principle.’

Jerry Coyne, ecologist, writing in the Washington Post, was not impressed:

But in fact Wolfe doesn’t even understand the theory he so despises. Evolution, he argues, isn’t a “scientific hypothesis” because nobody’s seen it happen, there’s no observation that could falsify it, it yields no predictions and it doesn’t “illuminate hitherto unknown or baffling areas of science.” Wrong — four times over.

If you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts.

Related On This Site: Where I agree with Chomsky on political matters: Down-twinkles to Stalin.

I often agree with Wolfe’s social conservatism.

“Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”


You may be familiar with the Mast Brothers, perhaps capitalizers on the desire for a return to craft over mass-production, communalism over ‘impersonal’ market forces.

Well, they were re-examined by the reporter who was previously on a mission against nail-salon social injustice, against whom Reason blogger Jim Epstein pushed-back, to which the Times eventually responded.

That is to say, a reporter, probably, who places value in lots of secular ‘-isms’:

Rick Mast said the backlash had come as a surprise. “To be boiled down to how you dress or how you wear your beard, or where you live — I think it’s a distraction,” he said. “Our chocolate is our No. 1 focus.” On a tour of the main factory next to the Brooklyn Navy Yard alongside his brother on Sunday, the Masts stressed their transparency

Behind the beards are actual men, you know, chocolate-makin’ men who have mingled their business model with the hipster yawp heard over many a rooftop garden in Brooklyn during the last few decades.

Of course, $7.50 chocolate bars may not actually be necessary, but the Mast Brothers invite customers into their process.  They’re giving you bits of their individual Selves to mix with your individual Self as you band together towards the future that awaits….

Few chocolate-makers take pains to mention Mark Twain & Ralph Waldo Emerson in their promo videos:

I’ve been thinking that upon examination, hipsterdom (not necessarily the Mast Brothers) may reveal DNA strands of previous American counter-cultural movements: Some hipsters have adopted milder forms of the bohemianism and cultural withdrawal of the Beats, others the collectivism, activism and ‘social conscience’ of the Hippies (along with many tenets of the feminist and environmentalist movements). Some others still the disposable income and professional ambition of Yuppies (see: Park Slope).

———————

As postedA similar, but different debate.

———–

-Steven Pinker, Harvard experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist wrote a piece in the New Republic, entitled: ‘Science Is Not Your Enemy

-Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since the 80′s, responded at The New Republic:  ‘No, Science Doesn’t Have All The Answers.

-Ross Douthat, conservative Catholic columnist at the Times jumped in the fray: ‘The Scientism Of Steve Pinker’ 

-Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, responded to Douthat.

-Wieseltier jumped back in with: ‘Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the humanities.  Don’t let it happen.

-Now Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist, one of the New Atheists and Boston-based secularist responds to Wieseltier:

‘Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems—or “problematics” to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.’

Related On This Site:  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”

A reader points out that I’ve put forth no real arguments…: The Politics Of Noam Chomsky-The Dangers Of Kantian Transcendental Idealism?

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

Perhaps Chomsky and Strauss both flirted with Zionism, but they were very different thinkers:…From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Response To A Reader On ‘Radical Chic’ And A Link to Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’

As to the quote from Louis Menand’s piece on Joan Didion entitled: ‘Out Of Bethlehem:’

‘After the Old Sacramento moment, Didion came to see the whole pioneer mystique as bogus from the start. The cultivation of California was not the act of rugged pioneers, she decided. It was the act of the federal government, which built the dams and the weirs and the railroads that made the state economically exploitable, public money spent on behalf of private business. Didion called it “the subsidized monopolization” of the state.’

Of course, there’s some truth in this.  The U.S. Federal Government is a huge landowner and manager of public lands and natural resources across the West, sometimes overseeing competition between private firms and contractors to create the infrastructure (roads, aqueducts, bridges, especially), that has made some of civilized life possible.

But yes, it is the work of pioneers, settlers, and farmers, too.  It’s the work of businesses, employees, voluntary contracts and sometimes exploitation, working apart from the government. Sometimes, it really does come down to survival; new roads built out of necessity, common purpose and ingenuity.

The overall view of ‘economically exploitable’ masses of ‘People’ is a definite turn Left, though, as is the idea that an economy can be centrally planned successfully in the first place (it’s all rigged man…’they’ hate us individuals or ‘the People,’ so it’s either control or be controlled).

Rugged individualism is very common the West, but more Leftward ‘radical chic’ collectivism and solidarity-seeking tend to thrive in California and the coastal cities.

My argument would be this:  By Menand’s account, Joan Didion as a writer seemed to drift away from one of the California families earning success through its virtues, ambition and hard work, bringing benefit to many more than themselves.  I can’t speak to their character.

Frankly, it’s not uncommon for writers to engage in such drift either, especially solipsistic ones, while always seeking some context or meaning in which to frame their lives.

Thus, passing through the 60’s and growing up in California, having gone to Berkeley, and wandering around amidst some pretty sad, desperate people drawn to the Bay Area, Didion may well have been shaped along more radical and Leftward lines.

But, aside from such ideas, by all means, if you like Didion’s stuff, read it.

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

On that note: Banksy, the mildly talented, ironic/iconic graffiti artist tries to shock you awake to how the world really is.

It’s not Disneyland, it’s ‘Dismaland.

Get it?

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I admit I find Disney theme parks to be rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization, and storybook themes.  There’s a lot of kitsch in them thar walls.

Clearly, though, many people love them.  They provide families with a place to go and spend time with their kids, and provide the kids a safe place to explore.

They’re a business, operating for profit.  I get it, but I don’t really care.

I can understand that a Frenchman, living in the shadow of Euro Disney, consuming a local wheel of perfectly aged cheese might have a different set of concerns, and perhaps some valid concerns, but I still don’t care that much.

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So, why ‘ironically’ target Disney, copying their model of people paying to wander through rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization and storybook themes?

Artists often want your attention, usually to have shaped your imagination in a slightly different way, or to make see the world anew by creating something beautiful enough that your reasons can’t justify your aesthetic pleasure.

So, ironically, and with politics infused, Banksy has deigned to get your attention by making something shockingly modern and urgent, globally just and socially conscious enough to direct your attention to the world as it really is.

Deep man, deep.

Surely, while highlighting the problems artists have always had with money and patronage, Banksy has no commitment to post-Enlightenment ideas that offer rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization and storybook themes…still haunting the landscape like so many abandoned theme parks that few people care to visit.

What a sad use of the imagination and relatively little in the way of artistic technique to back it up.

Related On This Site:  Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

From Via Media: ‘California’s Centrist Dems Overwhelmed By The Left’

Full post here.

Promises, promises.

‘San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s promising ballot initiative to fix California’s municipal pension problems went down in flames this weekend, before it even had a chance to come up for a vote. The initiative would have amended the state constitution to allow cash-strapped municipalities to restructure pension promises.’

Check on Robert Anton on Tom Wolfe’s journey to California during the 60’s:

‘And without Wolfe, we would not understand California-or the California-ized modern world.  At the time of his most frequent visits the state was undergoing a profound change, one that affects it to this day and whose every aspect has been exported throughout the country and the globe.  Both have become much more like California over the last 40 years, even as California has drifted away from its old self, and Wolfe has chronicled and explained it all.’

See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s for a rich account of the 60′s.  A New Yorker review of Wolfe’s new book Back To Blood, with Miami as its subject, here.

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California’s anti-union and anti-immigration democrat-Full video and background on Mickey Kaus here.

A good post on Robinson Jeffers from Malcolm Greenhill, which highlights how the rugged and vast beauty of California makes it easier to imagine what culture is, and what it ought to be on this outpost of Western Civilization.

Hearst Castle 4 by Bill Kuffrey

Hearst Castle 4 by Bill Kuffrey

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-A link for Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, public pensions and Schwarzenegger’s time in office.

Related On This Site:  Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’Victor Davis Hanson At The City Journal: ‘California, Here We Stay’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’ A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

The people who promise solutions to poverty and homelessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

Who Needs A Growing Economy, When You’ve Got Solidarity?-Michael Moynihan At The Daily Beast: ‘The Death Of Stalin’s Songbird’

Full piece here.

I was hoping for a piece that would note Pete Seeger’s songwriting talents and decency in dealing with people, but push back against the current hagiography and highlight, you know, the communism.

‘Seeger never really did abandon the dream of communism, despite the inconvenient fact that it had long since (starting around 1918) transformed into a pitiful nightmare. So it was unsurprising that in 1995 he would provide an effusive blurb for a book of poetry written by Tomas Borge, the brutal secret police chief and interior minister of Sandinista Nicaragua (“An extraordinary collection of poems and prose”).’

All together now, 1, 2, and a 1.2, 3, 4…

Wait a minute, wasn’t Bill de Blasio sympathetic to the Sandinistas?

You know, I remember reading a piece at the NY Times about Trotsky’s great-grandaughter, the neuroscientist Nora Volkow:

‘Dr. Volkow generally forswears any interest in politics per se, but midway through a long day of meetings last month she sighed and acknowledged, “science and politics are intertwined.” We think we have free will, she continued, but we are foiled at every turn. First our biology conspires against us with brains that are hard-wired to increase pleasure and decrease pain. Meanwhile, we are so gregarious that social systems — whether you call them peer pressure or politics — reliably dwarf us as individuals. “There is no way you can escape.”

This brought me back to Frenchman of The Left Bernhard Henri-Levy’s piece before the 2008 election:

“And one of the reasons I am so much in favor of [Senator Barack] Obama is that his election might be, will be—because I think he will be elected—a real end to this tide of competition of victimhood, and especially on the specific ground of the two communities, Jews and African Americans, who were so close in the 1960s”

…”The Obama election would reconstitute the grand alliance.”

Hail the grand alliance!

Samuel Bronkowitz may have gotten there first to celebrate the black-Jewish Leftist alliance in Hollywood:

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So, this is just liberalism, right?  It’s not race, it’s class.  It’s not ideology, it’s only science.  Look at all this equality!

See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times

Related On This Site: 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”

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’

Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’