Repost-Roger Kimball At Arma Virumque: ‘Santayana On Liberalism And Other Matters Of Interest’

Full essay here.

Worth a read:

‘My point is only that Santayana — the Spanish-born, Boston-bred, Harvard educated cosmopolite — stands out as an unusual specimen in the philosophical fraternity. He wrote beautifully, for one thing, commanding a supple yet robust prose that was elegant but rarely precious or self-infatuated’

and Kimball on Santayana’s interaction with William James:

‘Temperamentally, the two men were complete opposites — James bluff, hearty, the thorough New England pragmatist in manner as well as philosophical outlook: Santayana the super-refined, sonnet-writing, exquisitely disillusioned Catholic Spaniard. In many ways, Santayana was closer in spirit to William’s brother Henry.’

For what it’s worth, I recall a deeply Catholic lament and longing in the Spanish character, which can be combined with a kind of clear-eyed realism and stoicism, but not always. The faith runs deep in St Teresa and her passions, and despite Miguel de Unamuno’s rationalist influences, I remember a general preference for wisdom in the Tragic Sense Of Life.

Something clicked regarding Spain when I finally visited the Escorial outside of Madrid after many months of being in that city. It’s a grand castle of course, but it also struck me as rather plain, barracks-like at times. Very austere. It was explained that the Escorial was both a royal palace and a monastery:

————————–

Quote found here:

‘Philip’s instructions to Herrera stipulated “simplicity of form, severity in the whole, nobility without arrogance, majesty without ostentation,” qualities clearly illustrated by the long sweep of these facades.’

That Catholic influence can also get a little intense:

‘El Escorial was built to honor St. Lawrence, who was burned on a grill. In order to remind the citizens of his martyrdom and sacrifice, the entire building is a grill. Yes, it is shaped like a grill. There are paintings of St. Lawrence on a grill, grills are carved into the doorways, the weather vain is in the shape of a grill, the backs of chairs are supposed to be grills, the list literally could go on forever.’

Maybe they got a little carried away during the Reconquest.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarSome Sunday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

British conservatism with a fair amount of German idealist influence: Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: ‘Farewell To Judgment’

Via The University Of British Colombia: Kant-Summary Of Essential PointsFrom Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSunday Quotation: From Jonathan Bennett On Kant

From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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?’

A Sniper In Syria, Jerusalem, & Radical Campus Chic-Some Links

Via The Atlantic video, via Youtube:

Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest: ‘If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem? Not A Chance

‘…Pretentions of Iranian regional hegemonism have altered Arab state calculations at a time when faith in U.S. protection has waned. Especially if Israeli power can be concorded with Sunni Arab efforts to thwart Iran, selling out the Palestinians would be a small price to pay for that benefit, especially if it could be made to look like something other than a sell-out. And here we have the origin of the aforementioned strangeness.’

Radical campus chic meets a taste of reality.  From the Harvard Crimson, a graduating student reminds of the horrors of Communist ideology, shared from her family’s personal experience:

‘Many in my generation have blurred the reality of communism with the illusion of utopia. I never had that luxury. Growing up, my understanding of communism was personalized; I could see its lasting impact in the faces of my family members telling stories of their past. My perspective toward the ideology is radically different because I know the people who survived it; my relatives continue to wonder about their friends who did not’

All of us, I think, are subtly influenced by not only our own direct experiences, especially while young, but often imperceptibly by those around us, consistently, all throughout our lives; people interested in ideas no less than people who use their hands.

‘Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres’  is a common Spanish phrase, and I’d even heard it a few times in actual conversation while there: ‘Tell me the company you keep; I’ll tell you who you are’.

Whatever your moral lights, there is much activism and radicalism claiming liberation, but often coming with dangerous, collectivizing and totalizing elements harbored within, shaping the perceptions of the people and institutions wherein it can be found.

If these are the people and ideas left to defend liberty (people to whom Communism is radically chic), we’ve got serious trouble.

Trying To Club Your Club To Death, Fictional British Towns & Mars-Some Links

Imagine trying to ban all the Moose Lodges, Elks’ Clubs, Little Leagues, and Girl Scout Troops across the nation in the name of fairness (if these clubs and civil associations can’t be ‘equal’ according to the loudest voices demanding ‘equality’, then nobody’s going to have any clubs).

Of course, many of the same individuals and orgs seeking to influence everyone’s behavior at Harvard are also seeking to do so through the Federal Government.

Some people seem locked in [a] kind of slavish ideological dependency on the institutions they seek to either control or destroy.

From FIRE.org: ‘Harvard’s Steven Pinker on proposal to ban social clubs: ‘This is a terrible recommendation

‘Members of the Harvard University community are reacting to news yesterday that a faculty committee recommends the Ivy League institution eliminate all exclusive social clubs. The ban would effectively shutter any Harvard-connected off-campus clubs, including all fraternities and sororities, by the year 2022 — despite Harvard’s continued promises of unfettered freedom of association for its students.’


Via kottke.org: ‘Fictional Names For British Towns Generated By A Neural Net

Two miles from Brumlington, as the crow flies, deep in the moor past Firley Binch, lieth Fuckley….

I recommend Simon’s blog for photos and text of the English Countryside.

Mick Hartley’s blog is pretty good, too.


Five years on Mars can be boiled down to 1 1/2 hours of discussion.  The data is telling a story, so how is that story being told?:

Did Mars harbor life?

Could it have harbored life?

What does this new data mean for Earth and our story?

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

A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science

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

Harvey Mansfield At The City Journal: ‘Principles That Don’t Change’

Via Youtube: ‘Curiosity’s First Year On Mars’

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

Ron Unz At The American Conservative-‘Meritocracy: Almost As Wrong As Larry Summers’

Full piece here.

Are men better at math than women?  Will the social sciences ever be able answer such a question? A few fireworks at the link:

‘Still, even a broken or crooked clock is right twice each day, and Larry Summers is not the only person in the world who suspects that men might be a bit better at math than women.’

I see merit in putting parts of modern feminism to the test, re-examining the motives, tactics and reasoning of the gender-equity feminists, the personal-is-political radicals, and the gender-is-a social-construct folks.

Some questions:

-Why should we aim for a gender-neutral society with equality of opportunity?

-How do we know when we’ve arrived there, and at what cost?

-Who will gain, and who will lose?

Below is Straussian Harvey Mansfield discussing feminism during his long tenure at Harvard.  He threw his book ‘On Manliness’ into the prevailing winds.

Martha Nussbaum reviewed the book unfavorably here.

Addition:  Cathy Young at Reason has a piece on The Feminine Mystique.

—————-

***Straussians see America as sliding inexorably into hedonism, backing our way into radical individualism and excessive freedom, drifting towards European nihilism, or the belief in nothing.  Atop this process will pile up the products of reason, or fields of knowledge which claim reason can do much more than it may be able to do.  He includes many of the social sciences, and much of ‘modern’ philosophy.  Here’s the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s Entry:

‘Strauss especially worried about the modern philosophical grounds for political and moral normativity as well as about the philosophical, theological, and political consequences of what he took to be modern philosophy’s overinflated claims for the self-sufficiency of reason.’

According to Strauss, this same process led Europe into fascism (he was a German Jew who emigrated during the rise of the Nazi party).  This can perhaps be highlighted in the difference between political science, and political philosophy, as he saw them.

Political science assumes that the study of politics can be like a science, or a least quantified like one:  Statistics, modeling and analysis, polling data, voting habits and voting records, historical trends and party affiliation;  All of these can be guided by political theory and experience and synthesized to help us understand what politics is.

Perhaps, as we have seen recently, we can even use statistical modeling to predict elections.  Politicians, wonks, pundits, and aspirants to power all see use in more data and greater predictibility, and many naturally see clear political advantage in such thinking.

Strauss’ critique of this approach suggests that it also shapes to some extent who we think we are, and who we ought to be.  It is reductionist, and ultimately pits political groups and parties against one another, as though itself and everyone in its care were a neutral observer.

For Strauss, this approach ought to be countered by asking questions in a deeper tradition of political philosophy, his own neo-classicism:

“What is the good society?”

“What is the common good?”

On his thinking, modern political philosophers have also acted as revolutionaries, from Machiavelli onwards.  They’ve fallen from the grace in a way, or at least from his reason/revelation distinction. We moderns are lurching forwards, stumbling forwards through the dark corridors of the modern age.  We need return to classical philosophy, back to Plato and Aristotle:

‘Strauss employs the term “theological-political predicament,” to diagnose what he contends are the devastating philosophical, theological, and political consequences of the early modern attempt to separate theology from politics. However, Strauss in no way favors a return to theocracy or, like his contemporary Carl Schmitt, a turn toward political theology. Instead, Strauss attempts to recover classical political philosophy not to return to the political structures of the past but to reconsider ways in which pre-modern thinkers thought it necessary to grapple and live with the tensions, if not contradictions that, by definition, arise from human society. For Strauss, a recognition, and not a resolution, of the tensions and contradictions that define human society is the necessary starting point for philosophically reconstructing a philosophy, theology, and politics of moderation, all of which, he claims, the twentieth-century desperately needs.

Perhaps non-Straussians can begin to ask such questions of feminism, too.

Addition:  Do the moral laws make the people, or do the people make the moral laws?

Related On This Site:  Christina Hoff Sommers (wikipedia) is trying to replacing gender feminism with equity feminism. She also wrote The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.

A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science

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

Harvey Mansfield At The City Journal: ‘Principles That Don’t Change’

Bing West At The American Interest-’Women In Ground Combat’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Ron Unz At The American Conservative: ‘The Myth Of American Meritocracy’

Harvey Mansfield At The City Journal: ‘Principles That Don’t Change’

Full speech here.

I think Mansfield is taking on some products of the Enlightenment that he argues have holed up on our universities, namely modernism and postmodernism, in the humanities:

‘It is the job of the humanities to make non-science into something positive that could be called human in the best sense. This crucial work, which is necessary to science and, may I add, more difficult and more important than science, is hardly even addressed in our universities.’

Via Strauss, I suspect he’s arguing that this approach has backed science into a bit of a corner…by groups of people who’ve eaten up their own departments via their theories; they have reduced themseleves to vainly copying the sciences and throwing up their hands, having politicized their own fields:

‘To scientists, the university is divided into science and non-science; the latter is not knowledge and is likely to be mush (in this last they are right). Scientists easily forget that science cannot prove science is good, that their whole project is founded upon what is at best unscientific common sense.’

Which leads to wistful sighing and a lament to the atmosphere he witnesses on campus:

“Adjusting to change” is now the unofficial motto of Harvard, mutabilitas instead of veritas. To adjust, the new Harvard must avoid adherence to any principle that does not change, even liberal principle. Yet in fact it has three principles: diversity, choice, and equality. To respect change, diversity must serve to overcome stereotypes, though stereotypes are necessary to diversity.’

Such may be the times.

Also On This Site:  Straussians likely see a long fall away from virtue, from Natural right, from the reason/revelation distinction into the flawed logic of moral relativism and the triumph of a post-Enlightenment pursuit of truth under reason alone (addition: and the 1st and 2nd crises of modernity); the successes and dangers of historicism:  From Volokh: Harvey Mansfield Reviews ‘The Executive Unbound’From The Weekly Standard: Harvey Mansfield Reviews Paul Rahe’s “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift”Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo Strauss

I’m not sure Martha Nussbaum has higher ed quite right: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

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

Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgements apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To JudgmentRoger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

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

Bryan Magee’s series available on youbtube is useful:  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…Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

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

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…?

***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.

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 Rubin, Lisa 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

Other things on his plate-worldeconomicforum