Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’

Full post here.

Darwin and the arts.  Kirsch has an interesting piece reviewing 3 books, including one by Denis Dutton.  What might neuroaesthetics have to say about art that hasn’t been said already?

‘This sensible reticence served both art and science well enough for more than a century after Darwin’s death. But with the rise of evolutionary psychology, it was only a matter of time before the attempt was made to explain art in Darwinian terms. After all, if ethics and politics can be explained by game theory and reciprocal altruism, there is no reason why aesthetics should be different: in each case, what appears to be a realm of human autonomy can be reduced to the covert expression of biological imperatives. The first popular effort in this direction was the late Denis Dutton’s much-discussed book The Art Instinct, which appeared in 2009.’

Worth a read.

More broadly, it’s interesting to note how art, aesthetics, morality, moral reasoning, ethics etc. are being attached to Darwin’s thinking.  For some, I suspect, it is to advance a secular humanist platform which is full of oughts and shoulds for all of us in other areas of life, including politics and culture.

As posted (not Darwin):

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

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

Sandall:

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

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…

Related On This Site:  Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’Denis Dutton R.I.P.-December 28th, 2010 …From Bloggingheads: Denis Dutton On His New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’A Few More Thoughts On Denis Dutton’s New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…Adam Kirsch At The Prospect: ‘America’s Superman’… From The Spiked Review Of Books: “Re-Opening The American Mind”.

Some say we’re just selfish, others disagree-Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’Adam Kirsch In The New Republic On Slavoj Zizek: The Deadly JesterSlavoj Zizek In The New Republic: Responding To Adam Kirsch

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The MPS in the Galapagos (14): The Evolution of Religious Belief ‘

Full post here.

As always, worth a read.  Do we make the moral laws, or do the moral laws make us?  Does Darwinian thought support conservatism?:

‘While wondering why Hayek’s writing shows so little overt discussion of religion, Father Sirico argued that Hayek’s understanding of social order as emerging best through spontaneous evolution is applicable to the evolution of religious belief.  He made three points in support of this claim.

First, he noted how often Hayek cited religious thinkers like Lord Acton and the late scholastics of the middle ages, who supported the idea of social order as the “result of human action but not of human design.”

Second, Father Sirico argued that Hayek’s condemnation of rationalist constructivism and scientism could apply to the rationalism of the “New Atheists,” who try to dispose of all inherited religious beliefs and then reconstruct all our beliefs as personal constructions of reason.

Third, he argued that Hayek’s account of how social order arises from a gradual evolutionary development could also apply to the development of religious doctrine.  The doctrines of Christianity arose through many centuries of experience as an evolutionary process of adaptation and refinement.  He found this best expressed in some of the writing of John Henry Newman’

On that second note of morality being derived from rationalist constructivism and scientism, this blog is still seeking forms of ‘classical’ liberalism in good faith, or a liberalism which runs on consent and which tolerates dissent, a liberalism which supports broad definitions of free speech and recognizes deep disagreement in the public square.  Is Isaiah Berlin’s value-pluralism an option?:  On this site, seeA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

In the political realm, seeking equality as an ideal, for example, and equality of outcome, rather than equality under the law, seems to get the incentives wrong, invites the mediocre to power, and misses the boat on human nature and the wisdom of constrained institutions.   It seems wise to ask:

“Freedom from what, and freedom to what end?”

“Do I support coercion in order to reach my desired outcome, ideal, or vision of the good society?”

“How are my commitments working out in practice?”

Hayekian thought may offer options to allow moral judgment, moral thinking, and even religious moral thinking to not necessarily be crowded out of the public square in favor of progressive Statism, eliminative materialism, and rationalist public policy.

Copied from Will Wilkinson’s piece on Gerry Gaus’s new book:

‘In sum, OPR defends public reason liberalism without contractarian foundations. It is Kantian without being rationalistic. It is Humean without giving up the project of rationally reforming the moral order. It is evolutionary but not social Darwinist. It is classical liberal without being libertarian. It is Hegelian and organicist without being collectivist or statist. It shows us how political authority can be justified but only by accepting that moral authority limits it. It pushes us to look towards the practical and reject the utopian while simultaneously maintaining that a truly free and equal social order is within our grasp. It rejects the aspiration of political liberalism to neutrality among conceptions of morality while simultaneously retaining its spirit by sectioning off social morality from other normative domains.’

I tend towards skepticism when the idea of a free and equal society is raised.  Food for thought.

Addition:  Ideals of freedom and equality unconstrained, but I’m certainly open to new ideas.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This SiteA Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’ 

The Chicago School:  Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……From The American Spectator: ‘Sowell, Race Hustlers, and David Hume’

Hitchens has crafted a path out of socialism…to a sort of American neo-conservatism and new Atheism…out of materialism and attacks on Mother Teresa but a sustained attack on faith from reason: Isn’t virtue attached to reason part of the problem of materialism, and isn’t that a deeper problem?:  Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

People on the modern American right take issue with Rawls, but have they addressed his depth?:  From The American Conservative: Going Off The Rawls–David Gordon On John Rawls…Utilitarianism leads to problems.  Will the Rawlsian center-left hold up?:Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and Marx

Walter Russell Mead seems to be envisioning a reinvigorated liberalism 5.0, arguing that 60′s progressivism and 40-50′s conservatism (American politics more generally) are behind the times.   There’s been a fundamental shift that we must adjust to, and it involves technology and globalization for starters.

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke in a strong, libertarian defense of the individual A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Anarcho-capitalism:  Pro-market, anti-state, anti-war…paleo-libertarian: Link To Lew Rockwell Via A Reader…Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of KnowledgeTwo Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Roger Kimball At Arma Virumque: ‘Kenneth Minogue 1930-2013′William F. Buckley And Kenneth Minogue Discuss Ideology

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’…Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases……

Leon Wieseltier At The New Republic: ‘A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher’

Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

The neo-classicism of Leo Strauss and the reason/revelation distinction  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’Harvey Mansfield At Defining Ideas: ‘Democracy Without Politics?’

A Few Links On A Theme In Journalism

-Michael Kinsley puts the Judith Miller case in perspective:  ‘Who Owns The First Amendment?’ not necessarily journalists.

-From Learner.org, the series Ethics in America (Fred Friendly seminars, narrated by Charles Ogletree) was produced in late 1987 and has many interesting figures such as Rudy Giuliani, Antonin Scalia, Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes etc.  It is thought-provoking and well done.

-James Fallows at the Atlantic had a piece a while back, referencing the Friendly seminar with Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace: ‘Why Americans Hate The Media.’

Also On This Site: Was Jared Diamond acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

Nicolas Lemann At The Chronicle Of Higher Ed: ‘Journalism Schools Can Push Coverage Beyond Breaking News’

Classic Yellow Journalism by malik2moon

Remember The Maine! The good old days…by malik2moon

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From Savage Minds: More On The Lawsuit Against Jared Diamond

Full post here.

Addition:  Savage Minds also has a series of essays examining the situation, cross-published with StinkyJournalism.org.  

Is there really an escape-hatch to “Western” thought, I wonder, or is everyone involved best served by a continued discussion of journalistic and anthropologic ethics and epistemology?

Diamond may have had a ‘factual collapse,’ as the lawsuit against him is for libel, but this post has a good overview of the many issues at play:

“Answerability is something that journalists have been struggling with longer than anthropologists and I think what they have to teach Diamond offers lessons we ourselves will have to learn in the future (if we haven’t already): get your facts straight, report them fairly, and let people know that you are doing so. It is not only the right thing to do, but in a world where ‘they read what we right’, your audience is also your informants.”

It’s a small, and perhaps now smaller, world.  The author also worries about a potential backlash against anthropology.   The comments are worth a read.

See the previous post on this site for links:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit  

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