John O’ Sullivan at The New Criterion remembers Robert Conquest:
‘A strong dislike of pretension, accompanied by a happy delight in puncturing it through satire and parody, is also a major element in his literary criticism. His demolition of Ezra Pound is especially effective because, as a classical scholar and linguist, he is able to establish that many of Pound’s most admired technical effects are in reality simple errors of grammar or translation.’
“Those teach who can’t do” runs the dictum,
But for some even that’s out of reach:
They can’t even teach—so they’ve picked ’em
To teach other people to teach.
Then alas for the next generation,
For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.
Where psychology meets education
A terrible bullshit is born.’
Many people still can’t handle how bad Communism was on the ground, and fewer these days are looking to keep the ideology up in the air, partly thanks to Conquest and his labors:
My two cents: There are many stripes of Western liberal, from the quite reasonable secular humanist, data-driven political liberal and laissez-faire type, to somewhat less reasonable lifetime protesters, pie-in-the-sky idealists, and professional activists (feminists, environmentalists etc.). There are also further Left radicals, ideologues and revolutionaries.
This blog generally agrees the aim of social revolutionaries is to create anarchy, destabilizing civil society and implementing some variant of totalitarian ideological conformity and/or authoritarian rules and laws into the breach.
One had better believe that true-belief, and the moral judgments attached to animating political ideals, mean business, even if that business is anti-business (whatever you’re for, Mr./Mrs Bourgeois, they’re against).
If I am persuaded to be liberal in one matter or another, it is usually because the liberal point-of-view arises out of respect for the individual, is sufficiently grounded in knowledge and truth claims, and chooses not to use revolutionaries as a battering ram against ‘the bad guys’ now; the political liberal later.
The above, to me, has been one of the great errors of many Boomers, Hippies, and those political liberals on watch during the generation of 1968: The failure to recognize what the wages of radical social change, in many cases, actually are.
Insitutional instability and political disarray have many causes, but I’d argue that insufficient curation of the arts and sciences, institutional rules, and the civil ties keeping a nation of laws together, are clearly important causes worth watching.
There has been a lot of change, quickly.
Below are some quotations still helping me make sense of the world:
‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’
‘Progress, Communism, and Olympianism: these are three versions of the grand Western project. The first rumbles along in the background of our thought, the second is obviously a complete failure, but Olympianism is not only alive but a positively vibrant force in the way we think now. Above all, it determines the Western moral posture towards the rest of the world. It affirms democracy as an ideal, but carefully manipulates attitudes in a nervous attempt to control opinions hostile to Olympianism, such as beliefs in capital or corporal punishment, racial, and otherforms of prejudice, national self-assertion—and indeed, religion‘
Clive James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works, including Joseph Conrad:
‘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.’
Not entirely unrelated:
John Gray begins a discussion of his book ‘The Silence Of Animals‘ with a quote from Conrad:
Added bonus if you act now in the face of no possible objective knowledge.
Part of Bryan Magee’s series:
Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic.
Related On This Site: From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’.
From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant
Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’
Wasn’t judge Napolitano a Catholic libertarian?: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’
This blog seems to be drifting along deeper currents, leaving many issues unresolved: