David Thompson

Some Not So Recently Updated Links On Postmodernism

David Thompson offers satire on such matters.

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?


Tim Kavanaugh at Reason: Every Man A Derrida

Quote found here at friesian.com:

‘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 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.’

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

*******And mostly, but not entirely unrelated, you can make your own Tom Friedman columns at home.  Is Tom Friedman a bot?

Related On This Site:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

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”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Recycled Humorous Links For Your Enjoyment

Sweet van

Zombo.com. You won’t know unless you click.

Who reads the newspapers?

Still the funniest one, I think.

-Via David Thompson, if you don’t have time to watch Gymkata, this is the next best thing.

-Click here to experience ‘The Gobbler.

‘If you’re ever wondering what the War Room of “Dr. Strangelove” would look like if the movie had been directed by Prince, here you go.’

‘Think Foreigner’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ meets a standard Journey/Eddie Money-esque power rock ballad, chock full of all the standard cliches: ‘highest fever’ ‘roll the dice’ ”new horizon’ brand new start’ ‘hit the right spot

All of this tacked onto the end of Schwarzenegger’s pure uncut 80’s sci-fi action thriller…

Almost too much to bear.

Thanks, readers:

 

Repost: Free-Speech, White-Devils & Academics-What Purpose The Enlightenment Without Its Defenders?

Via David Thompson: ‘Don’t Oppress My People With Your White Devil Science

As a Straussian might see it: Once you set up (S)cience on the positivist definition, as the only arbiter of facts, one can very easily invite the anti-(S)cience response in kind, which manifests itself here as the retreat into a victimhood/oppressor ideology.

‘(S)cience’ was only a tool of the white oppressor, anyways, don’t you know (and no one actually has to do the hard work the sciences require…how convenient):

—-

As to these more radical groups splintering and applying pressure upwards upon institutions of learning (or at least remaining very vocal and demanding voices within them), I remain skeptical of merely relying upon an adaptable and healthy post-Enlightenment humanism to push back against them in the long-run.

It seems groups of post-Enlightenment individuals gathering to solve commonly defined problems is a risky business, indeed, or at least subject to the same old schisms and problems religious institutions underwent and continue to undergo regarding human nature. I think it’s fair to say people and institutions are often requiring of constraints, especially when it comes to political power and lawmaking; especially when it comes to the challenges our civilization faces from within and without in maintaining institutional authority.

I’d like to think that secularly liberal leadership, more broadly, including the people who want to be in charge of all of us (at their best operating from within moral communities of not too great a solipsism and self-regard) can resist such pressures. For there certainly are those who would fracture our institutions into rafts of post-Enlightenment ‘-isms’ and politicized movements often driven by illiberal ideologies; movements relying on the presumed self-sufficiency of reason while behaving quite irrationally.

I’m looking around and not seeing too much decency in American politics, lately.

A.C. Grayling makes one of the better cases for morality without religious doctrine, I’ve heard of late, but I’m not entirely sold these particular problems can be addressed sufficiently:

—–

Jonathan Haidt has infused the more modern field of moral psychology with some of David Hume’s empiricist theory of mind, the idea that intuitions come first, and our reasons for them are usually trotted out afterwards (when was the last time you walked away from an argument/debate/discussion totally converted and persuaded by the reasoning of the other guy?

Yet, how, exactly, did our institutions of higher-learning get to the point of catering to the loudest, often most naive, and often illiberal student-groups claiming their feelings and ideas deserve special treatment?

Isn’t this already a failure of leadership, to some extent?:

Kudos to Haidt for hanging in there, and providing an example:

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

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

***My own anecdote: After a fruitful Town Hall discussion here in Seattle, celebrated British mathematician Roger Penrose did some Q & A afterwards. Most questions were from math majors, physicists, engineers and hobbyists in the crowd (many were over my head…but I tried to catch a few).

One question came from a youngish man in a beret, a little unkempt, who asked (in a possibly affected, but in a very serious tone):

‘Mr. Penrose, what is meaning in a moribund universe?

‘Eh…sorry…I didn’t catch that?’

‘What is meaning in a mo-ri-bund universe?’

‘Well, that is a different kind of question…I mean, here’s what I can offer you…’

***That’s roughly how I remember it, and Penrose was gracious, but brisk, in moving onto the kinds of questions he might be able to answer, or for which he could provide some insight.

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?’

Megan McArdle On Obamacare’s Uninsured And Those Lizard-People Seeking To Devour Your Tasty, Human Flesh

-Megan McArdle at Bloomberg: ‘How Many Are Insured Because Of Obamacare? Great Question

The expansion of Medicaid plays an important role:

‘I think the number of would-be-uninsured people now covered by Obamacare is almost certainly north of 10 million. I’m not sure exactly how far north. And I’m not sure we’ll ever have a better estimate than that, either.’

At what cost?

Overall, I see the ACA as akin to forcing people in the suburbs, with good habits and who are reasonably successful, into only ever having the option of attending a few tiers of public-schools, paying through the nose in subsidizing the people at the worst schools, while no-one ever has the option of leaving the school-system, no matter how bad/good they think it is.

The epistemological claims as to why a few people (economists, academics, bureaucrats) can design such a system from the top-down is closely aligned with the politicians using similar claims to constantly expand their own political power and influence.

The government is the only thing we all belong todisplays a profoundly sad lack of moral imagination, as well as a narrow understanding of the nature of human freedom.

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’


Hey, let’s keep it light.

Radical Nudists?  Gun-toting ‘peace-forces’?

Via David Thompson: ‘The Illustrated Map Of America’s Worst Utopias

You can’t join ’em all!

Around Seattle, I’ve heard talk of the Ramtha School Of Enlightenment:

‘Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment (RSE) is an American spiritual sect near the rural town of Yelm, Washington. The school was established in 1988 by JZ Knight, who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old being called Ramtha the Enlightened One.’

Let’s just say if you don’t believe there are lizard-people out there, waiting to remorselessly devour tasty human flesh after the impending and catastrophic eruption of Mt.Rainier, well, buddy, you’re the one with problems.

If you’re going down to Jonestown, don’t drink the Kool-Aid (and don’t worry, kids, it’s just Powers Boothe forbidding all sexual relationships but his own)!

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’

From The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’

 

Michael Moynihan jihad.com.

Majid Nawaz on Jihadi John.

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Two Friday Links: Outside Of Paris & Inside The Guardian

Charles Cooke visited some Parisian banlieues:

‘Having been brought in during the “30 glorious years” that followed the end of World War II to work the jobs that the natives didn’t want, a whole raft of people are now stuck in a country that does not quite know what to do with them — and, for that matter, in which many are actively hostile toward them. Indeed, for all their talk of equality, the French are astonishingly racist when compared both with Europe in general and with the unusually tolerant Anglosphere, and they have shown no signs of actually adopting the sort of idea-driven “melting pot” approach that has made the United States so successful.’

Maybe it’s better than somewhere in North Africa, but it’s not quite France, either (The British and The French have notorious ‘beef’).

***The Hudson Institute had a discussion with Walter Russell Mead, a French mayor, and others on the mood in France after the attack.

Yes, Edmund Burke opposed the French Revolution: Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution..

Medieval Times-Roaming The Gloom With Theory: Interview With Michel Hollebecq

Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Look Away From Europe’s Muslim Problem’

See Also:  Why Lars Hedegaard Still Matters…Michael Moynihan At The Daily Beast: ‘The Repentant Radical’

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

David Thompson keeps an eye on the Guardianistas, particularly, George Monbiot, so you don’t have to:

‘Yes, dear readers. The odds are stacked against us and the situation is grim. Happily, however, “we” – that’s thee and me – now “find the glimmerings of an answer” in, among other things, “the sharing… of cars and appliances.” While yearning, as we are, for an “empathy revolution.” What, you didn’t know?’

Red Impulses Gone Green-Tim Worstall At The Adam Smith Institute On George MonbiotFrom George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

‘The Skill Of Gymnastics, The Kill Of Karate’

Via David Thompson, if you don’t have time to watch Gymkata, this is the next best thing.

What if an Olympic gymnast, sporting a wicked mullet, went through a rigorous training montage, then on to a top-secret mission to secure the national defense in a distant, fictitious land?

They play for keeps in Karabal:

————————l.

Still looking for awesome badness on this blog.  If you think you’ve got some awesome badness, preferably 80’s awesome badness, send it my way.

That’s all there is to say about that.

Some Wednesday Links On Free Speech & Ideology, Also Some Cool Photos

Julian Sanchez at CATO@Liberty on the Hobby Lobby reaction:

‘The ruling seems to provoke anger, not because it will result in women having to pay more for birth control (as it won’t), but at least in part because it fails to send the appropriate cultural signal. Or, at any rate, because it allows religious employers to continue sending the wrong cultural signal—disapproval of certain forms of contraception—when sending that signal does not impede the achievement of the government’s ends in any way.’

In lieu of other sources, when the personal becomes political, adherents can derive meaning, identity and purpose from Supreme Court decisions without really even understanding the decisions. This can devolve into a lot of tribal in-group/out-group outrage and identity-marking.

Since the 60’s Left-liberal counter-culture now is the culture in many parts of academia, and higher-ed is larded with a lot of administrative waste, the FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights In Education) is going on the offensive with lawsuits for what it sees as unconstitutional campus speech codes:

They’ve filed four free-speech lawsuits in one day.

From Reason:

‘Lukianoff explained that FIRE would not hesitate to expand the suits until all universities abandon their speech codes, which were ruled unconstitutional decades ago but have endured at more than 50 percent of colleges, according to the foundation’s research.’

If you find yourself sympathetic to religious liberty and/or conservative, limited government principles, broad definitions of free-speech, libertarian definitions of individual liberty and responsibility, or heck, maybe you’re just apolitical but find yourself getting tired of many organizing principles that lead to rather closed, poorer, top-down societies with more incentives for people to often neither think nor act for themselves…this isn’t a bad cause to support, if just with a nod of your head as you sit in front of your screen.

On that note, dear reader. via David Thompson’s excellent blog, here are some photos of the world’s northernmost biggest city, Norilsk, Russia:

It’s like a living game of Tetris.

Newsrooms Behind The Times-Free Speech & Ideology

From Juan Antonio Giner, via Ira Stoll at The Future Of Capitalism, ‘Why The New York Times Newsroom Is In Trouble‘:

Just some suggestions, as people tend to fight more over the less there is:

‘When what the paper really needed was an editorial leader able to lead the digital revolution at full speed, not just to add new, isolated and un-integrated digital soldiers.

In other words, a modern and innovative newsroom where 80% of the journalists work for web and mobile first, and 20% for a new and slimmer print paper.’

————————-

This blog continues to support civil libertarian feminists, often ex-feminists, or even continuing feminists who criticize feminist ideology in good or bad faith because they are free to do so.  They are free to bring-up the often shoddy use of statistics by many feminists, the cultural Marxism and troubling tendencies of victimhood/oppressor theories, the controlling impulses on display in the video below.

Via David Thompson, from Canada via the Agenda with Steve Paikin, notice how two panelists just can’t bring themselves around to the idea of other people speaking their minds, thinking differently and critically, and pursuing ideas freely in an open debate.

They really don’t seem to see a problem with where the logic of their own ideology leads:  To silence and shout-down opposing points of view, to constantly try and control the speech and thoughts of others.

Red Impulses Gone Green-Tim Worstall At The Adam Smith Institute On George Monbiot

Full piece here. (hat tip to David Thompson)

Worstall on Monbiot’s piece:

‘Which brings us to the much more important basic point. The 20th century rather tells us that what people think about things, their guilt at the state of the world, is less important than their actions. Many communists and socialists really did believe that communism and socialism would be better for human beings than the terrors of capitalism and free markets. But their motives pale beside their actual works, slaughtering a hundred million and more in assuaging their guilt.

Actions George, not motives.’

In many instances, the loyalty that many people had for communist and socialist ideals has been transferred over to green causes. Many moral commitments that came with these ideologies, frustrated by the horrendous consequences and totalitarian regimes that resulted (Stalinist North Korea and Communist Cuba still sputter onwards), have been re-directed or can even appear re-branded within environmental movements.

YOU should feel guilty about the poor, the downtrodden, and the global victims of industrial activity. WE should ‘re-wild’ nature and bring it to a state it achieved before man came and despoiled it. Humans have the power to shape their world, but only if they follow the right ideals and the right knowledge, as well as perhaps feeling the guilt and commitment and passion that come with those ideals. WE should aim for a simpler, collective life, and feel ’empathy’ with everyone (oft times the noble savage) around the globe.

—————–

To be fair, we don’t often see genuine socialists out in public in the United States pushing green causes, but there’s more than a little anti-corporate, anti-industrial activism that often finds expression within environmental movements. This activism can make its way into laws, and forms a major plank in the Democratic party platform nationally.

Whatever your thoughts on the natural world and conservation, I think it’s fair to say that from cartoons to schools to movies, there’s also been remarkable popular success in making environmental activism mainstream conventional wisdom; easy, cool and fun to join.

Rarely though, is there much discussion of the costs environmental laws can impose on private landowners and consumers (not just big real-estate developers and industrial interests) through compliance with the laws and higher prices. Supporters of environmental causes don’t often connect the dots between their interests and the potential for bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, nor the downright twisted incentives that can result for citizens, lawmakers and even budding scientists looking for grant money.

As we see in California, I think once you get enough public sentiment believing in the basic tenets of green thinking, then climate science, whatever its merits, often becomes a sideshow, while politics and money can become the main event.

***I think Monbiot was on much more stable ground when he appealed to J.S. Mill’s harm principle regarding people harmed by industrial activity.  Sometimes people in industries just don’t care about some of the consequences of their actions, and legal recourse can be hard to come by for those without money or connections.  There have been beneficial consequences to individuals’ health and to those parts of nature sought to be conserved…but again…at what cost?

It seems worth continually discussing.

From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…

This isn’t just about science.

——————-

Related On This SiteA Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing?-’Rewilding’ And Ecological Balance

Repost-From The American Spectator: ‘Environmentalism and the Leisure Class’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From The Boston Review: ‘Libertarianism And Liberty: How Not To Argue For Limited Government And Lower Taxes’From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’Karl Popper’s metaphysical theory: Falsifiability

Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?:  Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And Liberty

For Commerce And Contemplation-From David Thompson: ‘The Humble Among Us:’

Let’s face it, some people claiming to speak for the arts, or all artists, or all of the public who would benefit from the arts, are quite obviously speaking for themselves, their own interests, and/or ideas that will never speak for all artists nor all of the public.

In the worst cases, they can be speaking for ideas which seek to deploy the arts as propaganda.

Usually, though, after the humor dies down, such thinking tends to lead to more foundations, arts councils and programs, not necessarily better art:

‘As a member of our creative caste, Ms Delaney wants to capture the buzz and thrum of city life. She wants to inspire “recognition” and, above all, “empathy.” It’s just that she’d prefer not to empathise too much with those non-creative people. Say, by working for a living and paying her own bills’

For those interested, here are a few central questions I’ve gleaned from many discussions and debates of my own:

Who decides what is good and not good art, and what the public ‘ought’ to be viewing?‘

’Should artists of ambition, some talent and potential genius be supported, and if so, how?  Does this support always incentivize them to make better art?

Does institutionalization lead to the easier appropriation of art by the religious, the politicians, the speculators and patrons, the culture vultures and various other ideological interests?