The George Floyd Arrest Video, Google, And A Reminder Of Some Better Standards For Speech & Reasonable Discussion-This Thing Won’t Land Itself

Rod Dreher and commenters have a discussion about the George Floyd arrest video.  Eleven Updates.  It’s a hot topic.

‘Please don’t use my real name – there are issues where taking a stand is worth risking a job, but this isn’t one of them.
I’ve been a practicing attorney for 12 years, mostly doing civil litigation but with a little bit of criminal defense work. The big point you and many others, left and right, have missed about the new bodycam footage is that it’s likely to get Chauvin and the other officers acquitted–not because it shows Floyd resisting, but because combined with the autopsy results, it’s likely to prevent the government from proving causation beyond a reasonable doubt.’

Arrest video here, via Youtube via the Daily Mail.

On that note, New Tech is New Media, to a large extent, and it is displaying signs of the same ideological capture as much as Old Media and many of our educational institutions.

Youtube is balancing interests by moving away from independent content-creators and towards larger, existing media players.  Money is probably a main reason, but there’s also this:

Wojcicki said that she decided to start prioritizing authoritative sources in the wake of the terrorist attack in Nice, France on Bastille Day (July 14) in 2016.

“I remember reading about it and being just extremely upset and thinking our users need to know about it,” Wojcicki said.’

Equality–>Equity–>Ideological Capture.

From Google’s CEO:

‘Today we are announcing a set of concrete commitments to move that work forward: internally, to build sustainable equity for Google’s Black+ community, and externally, to make our products and programs helpful in the moments that matter most to Black users.’

The more I think about how complex the search algorithms, how many iterations I’ve performed with them while I/They alter my behavior, and how much information I am giving data stakeholders, well, Dear Reader, I’m a bit chilled.

When I see ‘equity’ language, however, specifically coming from the CEO at the company responsible for many of those algorithms, then I know it’s only a matter of time before that portion of the company becomes toxic, if it doesn’t break Google apart.

Towards understanding why ‘Equity’ is a word which will be used to shut down the pursuit of truth, new knowledge and reasoned debate.  All Enlightenment values many liberals, and now increasingly conservatives, will have to defend:

Come with me to my ‘field of gathered abstractions’:

Why I think the ‘modern’ maps greatly underestimate the depth and wisdom of the religious and humanities’ maps of human nature, rather than the ideological maps of oppressor/oppressed and the postmodern capture.

Highlighting ideological capture with libertarianism:

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.’

Highlighting ideology with 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.’

The move from Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism is a deeper and very important current in the Western World, and it is isolating many of us into (S)elves, and promoting a radical posture of first the artist, now each individual, as existentially apart from and outside of all institutions.

Highlighting postmodern skepticism with postmodern skepticism and some British Idealism:

Review here of a book by author Luke O’Sullivan on 20th century British conservative and thinker Michael Oakeshott. Other books by O’Sullivan on Oakeshott can be found here.

Highlighting ideology with 20th-century liberal philosophy

Before modernism, there was the Romantic break of the individual artistic genius driving all this change forward on his own. Isaiah Berlin had some thoughts about this (as well as the horrendous totalitarianism which emerges when you start-out thinking the Ends Of Man are already known).

Thanks, reader. Probably worth revisiting:

Highlighting ideology and speech with older liberalism: How about speech?:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Good Inequality’

Full piece here.

For what it’s worth, in my travels, I often find people who believe ‘inequality’ to be a social or moral harm, to also find ‘equality’ to be a social and moral good, and I’m curious as to how they arrived at such a position.

What does ‘equality’ mean, exactly?

In my experience, people can be wildly unequal in terms of physical and mental abilities, innate capacities and learned skills, life experiences, love and relationship goals, drive and ambition, and of course, pure luck.

We’ve all had some good times, some hard times, some things we’ve fought hard for, sacrificed for, and made a central part of our lives.

Am I gonna make it?  How can I be better to someone I love?  Is what I’m doing with my time worthwhile?

I generally agree with equality under the law as far as the equality of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ goes, but once I start to hear ‘equality’ as an abstract list of ‘rights’, human and otherwise, I find myself occupying a position of skepticism and doubt.

How much equality is enough, exactly?

Arnhart:

‘Over 11 percent of Americans will be among the top 1 percent of income-earners (people making a minimum of $332,000 per year) for at least one year in their lives.  94 percent of the Americans who join the top 1 percent group will keep that status for only one year.’

It seems to me that economic mobility and opportunity is one of the greatest strengths and cherished inheritances we share as Americans.

We don’t have to build around the ruins of monarchy, aristocracy, feudal landownership and fixed classes as found in most of Old Europe.  Our founders set us on a glide-path out of such constraints, with a lot of foresight and wisdom.

Arnhart:

‘Moreover, the factors that explain higher household incomes among Americans are not fixed over a lifetime, and they are to some degree a matter of personal decisions, which means that people are not forced to remain in one income bracket for their whole lives.  American households with higher than average incomes tend to be households where the members are well-educated, in their prime earning years (between the ages of 35 and 64), working full-time, and are in stable marriages.  Households with lower than average incomes tend to be households where the members are less-educated, outside their prime earning years, unemployed or working only part-time, and they are likely to be unmarried.’

Piketty And Hitchens-Some Saturday Links

Larry Summers via the Democracy Journal has an easily-accessible review of Piketty’s ‘Capital In The Twenty-First Century‘, called ‘The Inequality Puzzle.’

Among other interesting thoughts, there’s this:

‘…there is the basic truth that technology and globalization give greater scope to those with extraordinary entrepreneurial ability, luck, or managerial skill. Think about the contrast between George Eastman, who pioneered fundamental innovations in photography, and Steve Jobs. Jobs had an immediate global market, and the immediate capacity to implement his innovations at very low cost, so he was able to capture a far larger share of their value than Eastman. Correspondingly, while Eastman’s innovations and their dissemination through the Eastman Kodak Co. provided a foundation for a prosperous middle class in Rochester for generations, no comparable impact has been created by Jobs’s innovations’

Addition:  Richard Epstein-Piketty’s Rickety Economics.

Martin Feldstein at the WSJ (behind a paywall)-Piketty’s Numbers Don’t Add Up.

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?Why Do People Move To Cities? From Falkenblog: ‘The Perennial Urban Allure’

Technotopia And Politics-Jonah Goldberg At The National Review Online: ‘Minimum Wage And The Rise Of The Machines’

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’

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Piketty’s Tax Hikes Won’t Help The Middle-Class’…David Harsanyi: ‘What Thomas Piketty’s Popularity Tells Us About The Liberal Press?’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.  Technology is changing things rapidly, and maybe, as Charles Murray points out, it’s skewing the field toward high IQ positions while simultaneously getting rid of industrial, managerial, clerical, labor intensive office jobs.  Even so,  we can’t cling to the past.  This is quite a progressive vision but one that embraces change boldly.  Repost-Via Youtube: Conversations With History – Walter Russell Mead

The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’

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

Full piece here:

‘High schools and colleges that lack viewpoint diversity should make it their top priority. Race and gender diversity matter too, but if those goals are pursued in the ways that student activists are currently demanding, then political orthodoxy is likely to intensify.’

Especially in California, in private schools too, I’m guessing you will likely see a lot of what Haidt describes here as the air kids are used to breathing.

Often, should you point out such competing truths, many people appreciate the respectful discussion; a give and take.

But when you’ve upset the true-believers and their followers (people with money, jobs, political power, core-identity on the line), expect to be vilified and attacked.

For the long haul, it’s possible to be quietly ignored as anachronistic, on the ‘wrong side of history’, put in the libertarian/conservative/neo-conservative bin etc.

There, many sit on a dusty shelf in the bin, properly labeled.

Uncool.

As previously posted:

Megan McArdle revisited Jonathan Haidt: ‘Liberals Can’t Admit To Thinking Like Conservatives

‘I’m an enormous fan of Jonathan Haidt’s work. Nonetheless, I’ve always had two outstanding questions about it (and would note that these are not exactly questions of which Professor Haidt is unaware).’

Check out Larry Arnhart, at Darwinian Conservatism:

Full piece here:

‘The most revealing comment from the Wall Street Journal interview is his praise for Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions, in which Sowell elaborates Friedrich Hayek’s distinction between the “constrained vision” of the British tradition and the “unconstrained vision” of the French tradition.  The constrained or realist vision of human nature is the vision of classical liberalism (Adam Smith) or traditionalist conservatism (Edmund Burke).  “Again, as a moral psychologist,” Haidt says, “I had to say the constrained vision is correct.”  The evolutionary support for the constrained vision is one of the major themes of my Darwinian Conservatism.’

and:

‘The imprecise terminology of liberalism, conservatism, and libertarianism is also confusing.  From my reading of Haidt’s book, he is implicitly embracing a liberal conservatism, or what people like Frank Meyer defended as a fusion of classical liberalism and traditionalist conservatism.  (Haidt mentions fusionism briefly in his paper on libertarianism.)  Crucial for this fusion is the distinction between state and society.  The end for a free state is liberty.  The end for a free society is virtue.  Political liberty provides the conditions for people to pursue virtue in civil society through the natural and voluntary associations of life.  Classical liberals or libertarians rightly emphasize political liberty.  Traditionalist conservatives rightly emphasize social virtue.  Political liberty provides the liberal tolerance by which people are free to pursue their moral visions within whatever moral community they join, as long as they do not violate the equal liberty of all others to live their moral lives as they choose.

‘This is, I think, implicit in Haidt’s book, but he never makes it explicit, because he never clearly makes the crucial distinction between state and society, political liberty and social virtue.’

Interesting reading.

From a reader:  ‘The Rationalist Delusion In Moral Psychology:’

Insights Into Equality Of Opportunity

As I see it, one major purpose of institutions is to to not interfere too much with genius, to get the best people working on specific problems and challenges, and to try and give talented others on down (the rest of us, per IQ tests and abilities) opportunities to succeed.

Once you start demanding equality of outcome, you’ve gone too far, in my estimation.

There seems a lot of going too far in many parts of our institutions lately, demanding utopian ideals be their guides and that nature/human nature/reality submit to these utopian, post-Enlightenment ideals guiding these institutions.

Henry Kissinger here.

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”

and:

“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

In the world of politics and the political economy, there is endless competition over limited resources and their allocation, hence the bloodsport and all the fighting.

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

Here’s another take, the entirety of which can be found here.

“[Thomas] Sowell’s argument is a relatively simple one:  “innate” mental abilities do not develop spontaneously but must undergo development, which is differentially fostered by different cultures, even when the abilities are general and abstract and do not consist of items of cultural knowledge.

“…Sowell’s approach splits the difference between “nature” and “nurture“…

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

With Larry Summers being pushed out by members of the Democratic party for his nomination as chairman of the Federal Reserve, it reminds of when he was pushed out of the role of President at Harvard.  For the many reasons that may be involved, I suspect the notion of a faint, scarlet ‘S’ for ‘sexist’ marked on his chest is one.  You don’t need much logic or reason to make that charge.

I keep putting this post up, because, one hopes we’ll arrive at a little sanity in pursuit of truth.

——————-

He may have been fired for many reasons, but Summers off-the-cuff Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce had a lot to do with it:

1.  The first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis-Summers notes that high positions demand high commitment.  Science could be analogous to other professions like law.   He appeals to a longitudinal study that suggests that fewer women may agree to, or be willing to, devote such time and energy to their jobs over their careers as do men.  Changing the nature of these professions to higher female ratios may change some of the fundamental ways we arrange our society:

“…is our society right to expect that level of effort from people who hold the most prominent jobs?”

Perhaps…though the subtext might be:  are some members of our society right to expect that the guiding ideas of diversity and equality won’t come with a host of other problems…?

What about biology?

***Charles Murray takes it a few steps further, asserting that our social sciences are leading us to become more like Europe (less dynamic and less idealistic in our pursuit of Aristotelian happiness)  He also argues that there is a sea-change going on in the social science that will come to support his thinking. This last part could be a few steps too far…but it’d be nice.

2.  The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end-The bell curve argument that there are more genius and idiot men.  When you get to MIT, 3 and more standard deviations above the mean…means a lot.

3.  The third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search-If discrimination is such an important factor in there being a lack of women scientists, then economic theory holds that there are going to be:

“…very substantial opportunities for a limited number of people who were not prepared to discriminate to assemble remarkable departments of high quality people at relatively limited cost simply by the act of their not discriminating.”

So if the theory holds…where are the science departments scooping up all women scientists at low cost…who’ve been rejected elsewhere due to discrimination?

——————

I believe there is quite arguably discrimination against women in the sciences, and they have a harder road to reach success.  But there is also substance here…and clearly politics was a factor in Summers’ firing as well;  the women’s groups who viewed his ideas as an attack on their belief appealed to public sentiment in the worst kind of way.

Will social science ever be enough to address such an issue…or is it possibly changing to adapt to the demands people require of it?

On This Site:  Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Addition:  I always get an email or two that suggests I’ve joined the ranks of those who don’t fully understand the problem and seek to oppress women.  I don’t think I’ve done such a thing, and if women are going broaden and deepen feminism, they may well have to answer to arguments like these.

It’s not like there aren’t women in the sciences either, Vera RubinLisa Randall and Lise Meitner come to mind, but this debate is clearly not just about science.  It’s also about feminism, the social sciences, money, politics, public opinion etc…

Larry Summers - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2007 by World Economic Forum

From The De Blasio Files-Howard Husock At Forbes: ‘Risking Mediocrity For Fairness’

Full piece here.

Those pesky philanthropic fat-cats, running some city parks efficiently and well, with a free and genuine spirit of giving:

‘In the de Blasio era, both charter parks and charter schools are under fire—in ways that would effectively tax the philanthropic support they receive. Mayor de Blasio, in part because of professed concern that some charter schools are “well-resourced,” has proposed (without specifics yet) that the city charge the 119 charter schools housed in city property rent. Similarly, he has endorsed proposed state legislation that would require that park conservancies—what I’m calling charter parks—be required to divert 20 percent of philanthropic support they receive to the upkeep of less well-maintained parks, perhaps in poorer neighborhoods, that are the responsibility of the city’s Parks Department.’

The lever is City Hall, which progressive ideological and political commitments will use to control the time and labor of everyone according to their ideals.  The reality will be much messier.

NY times piece here on the Sandinista connection.  De Blasio’s inner circle.

***Perhaps, according to a certain point of view, many of the functions that charities, churches, and religious organizations perform will be co-opted by the government (the De Blasio coalitions no doubt see many things this way).  Interestingly, old-school Democrat, poor Brooklyn kid, and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan made some interesting arguments about the dangers of such Statism.

Related On This SiteRichard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’...The Irish were a mess:  William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’

What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

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

Politicians and politics likely won’t deliver you from human nature, nor fulfill your dreams in the way you want: anarchy probably won’t either: Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Josh Barro At Business Insider: ‘Dear New Yorkers: Here’s Why Your Rent Is So Ridiculously High’

Link From A Reader: ‘Richard Epstein Introduces Chicago’s Best Ideas To Students’

————-

As I’m neither a lawyer nor an economist, feel free to chime in.  Epstein is intense.

Once you convince yourself that the business of government is to ‘worry about the elimination of wealth differentials,” as he states, then you will almost always end up shrinking the pie.  Epstein advocates keeping the pie growing, and removing barriers for people to enter into voluntary exchanges where both parties can benefit.

The income inequality folks often end up making more inequality through good intentions, cinching off the economy at its top through crony capitalism (favoring a few business winners and creating barriers to market entry along with enormous, inefficient bureaucracies).  They can also increase the politicians’ control over the money supply, eroding capital and tying outcomes to short-term political cycles.  Aiming for more equality often leads to less equality, much as the equality of outcome folks want more one-man, one-vote democracy, which is pretty much impossible in practice.

The whole thing slows down and/or stalls as people fight more over less.

***Say you’re more conservative, or religious, a Burkean, a la Kirk, or very interested in what keeps families together and the restraints necessary upon individuals and their own passions, helping to pursue life, liberty and some happiness.  As a libertarian law/economics thinker, Epstein makes the case that conservatism is great for genetic relations and family units, but not always scalable beyond these smaller circles necessary to maintain greater freedoms in civil society:  our families, churches and civic organizations.  He advocates a broader system of voluntarily entered into agreements and contracts, through Chicago School economic theory, which keeps the pie growing below in a large republic like ours.

————–

***One concern from the conservative perspective is that libertarian theory can introduce an individualism into people’s lives that is destructive as much as constructive, one that can flirt with anarchy, anti-traditional, anti-authority.  Maybe that individualism is already here, as a friend points out, and if so, perhaps it’s better than filling the postmodern hole with rights-based secular humanism, collectivism, or tying postmodernism and leftist solidarity to liberalism proper. There is both a classically liberal and a deeply anarchic libertarianism.

Repost-‘Philip Brand Reviews Kay Hymowitz At Real Clear Books: ‘Women on Top, Men at the Bottom’

Full review here.

Man-children?  A war against men? The products of feminism?  An erosion of religious values?:

‘The thrust of Manning Up is different. In her new book, Hymowitz puts economic conditions first — along with the increasing professional accomplishments of women. Preadulthood, she says, is “an adjustment to huge shifts in the economy, one that makes a college education essential to achieving or maintaining a middle-class life.” 

That’s preadulthood for men:

Preadulthood — most common among men in their twenties, though it can easily extend to one’s thirties and beyond — is a consequence of two related economic trends that are reshaping the coming-of-age experience for young Americans, both men and women. The first trend is the extended period of training — college and beyond — deemed necessary to succeed in the modern economy. The second trend is women’s participation and flourishing in the new economy.’

Related On This SiteFrom Will Wilkinson-A Response To Kay Hymowitz: ‘The “Menaissance” and Its Dickscontents’Kay Hymowitz In The The City Journal: Love In The Time Of DarwinismKay Hymowitz In The City Journal: Child-Man In The Promised Land?Kay Hymowitz At The City Journal: ‘How Brooklyn Got Its Groove Back’

From The Chronicle Of Higher Ed Via A & L Daily: Christina Hoff Sommers “Persistent Myths In Feminist Scholarship”Wendy Kaminer At The Atlantic: ‘Sexual Harassment And The Loneliness Of The Civil Libertarian Feminist’

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

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From Real Clear Markets: ‘Racial, Gender Quotas In The Financial Bill?’

Full post here.

Of course, if true, it’s wouldn’t be that surprising:

“I was searching the bill for a provision about derivatives. What did I find but Section 342, which declares that race and gender employment ratios, if not quotas, must be observed by private financial institutions that do business with the government.”

Is the democrats tax and spend, centralize and pass-as-much-legislation-as-possible way of doing business an efficient address of our problems?

Also On This Site:  From Boston Globe Via The A & L Daily: ‘Who’s Still BiasedI like any shred of a centrist Obama, dealing with the subtlety and threat of terrorism, re-calibrating in Afghanistan (still reasonable if he’s not just planning an exit, but I think his party will eventually demand it of him)…but domestically, I’m not pleased.  Health-care is a big problem, so is immigration, but even more so will be the rampant spending and pork involved.  Way too far left for me: Barack Obama President Elect: A Few Hopes From An Independent

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From YouTube: ‘Commotion Over India’s Women’s Bill’

Is India pursuing equality too zealously in this case, risking too much change too quickly, foisting top-down legislation upon traditions that will resist it and do not recognize its legitimacy?  In pursuing (or at least legislating it), do you also risk less equality?

Via Andrew Sullivan, a roundup of opinion from Global Voices online.

Addition: I should add that it’s not clear to me.

Also On This Site:  In the U.S., I’d argue that feminism has succeeded in many ways, but haven’t there been costs? Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?.

Derek Bok, who was asked to step back in at Harvard after Summers was ousted, has his book, the Politics Of Happiness reviewed here.  Have we backed into an idealism not sufficiently skeptical of what government can do?

From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’ Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

Nussbaum argues profoundly for more equality:  From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

A Few Thoughts-Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

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

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From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Full review-essay here.

Nussbaum’s book can be found here.

 “Nussbaum sees the university as under attack from two directions, one represented by conservative critics, such as Allan Bloom, George Will, and Roger Kimball, who accuse the university of fostering relativism, trendy “political correctness,” and an ignorance of, if not downright antipathy toward, the standards of reason and the canon of Great Literature that the university, they believe, should be defending. The other threat comes from groups, including some feminists and advocates of racial and ethnic difference, who have also challenged the traditions of the university, questioning its reliance upon Western- or male-centered rationality and a canon that is insufficiently inclusive of the contributions of nondominant groups.”

This is insightful.  Perhaps, like Camille Paglia, you are genuinely concerned that humanities departments have given too free a home to equality ideologues, feminists and relativists, and that this has spilled back out into the culture at large.   Yet, popular political thinkers on the right, like George Will (and Paglia herself who’s not on the right), aren’t deep enough to get at the root of the problem as Nussbaum is here defining it:  classical learning.

(Would Stanley Fish be part of that same rightist group, or is he deeper than that?  Is Rush Limbaugh the tail end of it)?

In addition, perhaps like Nussbaum, you may be concerned at Allan Bloom’s reliance on Platonic Idealism to diagnose the problem.

I should mention this, among other things, is what really frightens me about Nietzschean influence; what he didn’t understand of the mathematical sciences and philosophy,he attacked from within his own ideas.

So what does Nussbaum suggest?

“Between these two lines of attack, she believes, the university must articulate a conception of itself that defends the standards of reason, while remaining open to new points of view; that preserves the intellectual traditions and canons that define U.S. culture, while consciously broadening the curriculum to expose students to traditions which diverge from their own and which, in their difference, may confront students with an awareness of their own parochialism; that remain respectful and tolerant of many points of view without lapsing into relativism; and in short, that manages to prepare students simultaneously to be citizens of U.S. society, and cosmopolitans, “citizens of the world.”

This has always struck me as a little too broad of a vision to maintain (too heavy on the gender and equality side of things, too much of its time), though I certainly respect the attempt.  We should aim to be citizens of the world and in the best Aristotelian sense (such depth and breadth may be in fact necessary). But is it enough within this framework?

Our author remains skeptical, and finds that the book didn’t quite meet Nussbaum’s own aims:

“In all of this, I think, we return to the narrow conception of philosophy that drives Nussbaum’s argument. By equating philosophy with the defense of Socratic reason, and by refusing to consider that this mode of analysis may not provide the universal discourse for resolving disagreements even within this society, let alone on a global scale, Nussbaum ends up providing, on the whole, a conception of liberal education that diverges very little from the secular university’s present self-conception.”

An interesting review.   Obviously, there’s more depth here than I’ve addressed.

*  Could the limits of such a view be seen in Amartya Sen’s recent New York Review Of Books piece (is Sen’s thinking more apropos of India’s problems rather than America’s…despite its depth?)  Sen and Nussbaum have worked well together to address difficult problems, but maybe I don’t understand economics enough to say. (Am I flirting with isolationism?)

Related On This Site:-Martha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  The limits of globalism? Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal …Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy…A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche Connection

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