Watching The Shadows Go By-A Few Links & Thoughts On Romantic Primitivism, ‘Culture’ And Political Idealism

Let me project some of my own interpretations onto the cave wall.

Photo taken by Nikola Solic (a fine photographer) of a display at the Neanderthal Musuem in Krapina, Croatia.

For many Westerners, perhaps there is no longer a God revealing Himself to Man, but there are expanding fields of knowledge and human endeavors able to light the way forwards onto a future of hope and progress; backwards onto human origins.

In the popular media (such as in the publications displaying the photo above), perhaps this knowledge can align with current popular sentiment and belief.  An imprimatur, of sorts.

Such thinking can also coincide with a rather Romantic Idealization of Nature; a vision of Man without dominion over Nature, necessarily, but rather men, women, children and an ever growing list of humans (and animals, even) living both frustratingly apart, but also interconnected within Nature, following Nature’s lead alone and with each other.

Most people, I suspect, often without such specialized knowledge (not specifically trained in the sciences), require a lot of moral oughts and shoulds regarding how to live and what to do.

Furthermore, people tend to organize into groups united by shared principles and beliefs, and so often, in the modern world, beneath political ideals and political ideologies.  Even if these political ideals and ideologies aren’t explict moral philosophies, necessarily, they can certainly end-up engaging the moral sentiments, basic human desires and motivations of the people within them.

Such movements are certainly understood by many of their members as posessing truth and knowledge enough to write the laws and rules we all must follow, prescribing our own personal moral behavior enough to align us with the people who ought to be in charge of us.

Perhaps the poet or Romantic genius can help guide Man into the Self and the Self into Nature.  The poet/thinker’s example can be full of grief, anguish and Nature’s brutality, indeed, but it can also offer moments of self-actualization, beauty, consolation and transcendence. It can be taught as part of a civilizing hierarchy or canon, a reef of traditions and structure enough to develop seriously good artists and produce quite a few educated citizens.

I suspect there’s always been a tension between the poet/artist and the Man of Science and Mathematics; people generally more concerned in seeking the underlying order and patterns within Nature, discovering the probabilistic and mathematical laws able to accurately describe and predict the strange world in which we seem to find ourselves. Such laws can be beautiful, and symmetrical, and true just for their own sake, sure, but like a good poem, a mathematical law remains curiously silent about how to live and what to do.

Addition: Perhaps, I might add, but perhaps not. Perhaps it’s worth thinking about just which dangers accompany such lights, and which problems endure.

The late Roger Sandall, here:

‘The claim that “open societies” are now increasingly threatened would probably meet with little argument. But what is the nature of the threat, and what are its roots? Here less agreement might be found. Some would say an essentially religious clash of civilizations is the main cause, and point to the growing struggle between Islam and the West.

Others might point to Russia under President Putin, finding evidence of a long-standing political tradition that owes relatively little to the Russian Orthodox Church, but has always found liberty odious.

And then there’s a third and troubling possibility — that from an evolutionary perspective, taking a long view of our historic and prehistoric origins, open societies where voluntaristic principles prevail are new forms of human association only recently arrived from the distant tribal past, and in the more violent trouble spots around the world they never arrived at all.’

The late Ken Minogue:

On the many dangers of political idealism, and using political theory as the limits of your field of vision:

‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial.  Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony.  In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral idea.’

-Minogue, Kenneth.  Politics.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).

Related: A definition of humanism:

“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Related On This Site: From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’…

Roger Sandall, Australian critic of romantic primitivism and the Western’s Left’s penchant for the Noble Savage: His home page where his essays can be found. Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues“ and…

Robert Hughes, Australian and often fierce critic of modernism and post-modernism.

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”

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

Some Practical Solutions For Threats To Free Thought, Free Speech & Freedom Of Expression

Who are the actual stakeholders in refusing the tactics of ostracism, intimidation, and threats of violence on campus curently coming from the far Left?:

Jonathan Haidt continues to have interesting ideas:

It may be as simple as just letting the true-believers, zealots, and ideologues have their own place, having to compete in the marketplace of ideas ($80k a year….for this?).  Yes, often it’s a form of capitulation, but such true-believers, zealots, and ideologues depend upon the institutions they colonize for their survival (disrespecting the rules and legitimacy of the institutions from the get-go; seeking radical transformation and control of the institutions nonetheless).

It will also require the backbone of many in academia and intellectual pursuits to stand-up to charges of thinking differently and violating the holy ‘-Isms’ from time to time.  Especially when it has to do with one’s own discipline, domain, and methods.

Eventually, the mobs will come after you, too.

More here.

Link sent in by a reader.

Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).

According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.

Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities. The two are mutually dependent to some extent.

Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.

Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian ne0-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics. This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.

On this site, see: Mark Pennington Via Vimeo: ‘Democracy And The Deliberative Conceit’

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

Via C-SPAN-The Historical Context Of Allan Bloom

…Timothy Fuller At The New Criterion: ‘The Compensations Of Michael Oakeshott’John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

Related On This Site: Jonathan Haidt & Greg Lukianoff At The Atlantic: ‘Why It’s a Bad Idea To Tell Students Ideas Are Violence’

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

See the previous post.The Intellectual Cowardice Of The Crowd-Charles Murray At Middlebury College

Charles Murray’s Account Of The Middlebury College Affair

Repost-From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

Related On This Site:From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

Jonathan Haidt At Heteodox Academy: ‘The Blasphemy Case Against Bret Weinstein, And Its Four Lessons For Professors’

Why Should You Get A Liberal Education? From The ASAN Institute Via Vimeo: ‘Michael Oakeshott’s Cold War Liberalism 1’

More here.

Link sent in by a reader.

Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).

According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.

Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities. The two are mutually dependent to some extent.

Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.

Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian ne0-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics. This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.

On this site, see: Mark Pennington Via Vimeo: ‘Democracy And The Deliberative Conceit’

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

Via C-SPAN-The Historical Context Of Allan Bloom

…Timothy Fuller At The New Criterion: ‘The Compensations Of Michael Oakeshott’John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

————

As previously posted:

Heather MacDonald piece here (link may not last)

Oh, the humanity.

I agree that students, when facing a syllabus, shouldn’t also have to face the great books mediated, nor their young minds circumscribed, by overt political ideologies.

MacDonald:

‘In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”

Upon hearing “gender, sexuality, race, and class,” I confess my head hangs down a bit and a sigh escapes my lips. Such a lack of imagination does great disservice to works of such powerful imagination.

Then again, I remember my last trip to Southern California (zing).

Of course, there still needs to be an intellectual framework and curriculum for the humanities.

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On that note, Roger Scruton had some keen insights:

“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”

“…in the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”

Quite importantly:

“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.”

This is a matter of deep debate in our society right now.

Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, debates Scruton below.

Will Marxism & continental philosophy become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America as we find much more so in Britain?

Are we really that thick in the postmodern weeds?:

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Judgment, as Scruton points out, shouldn’t necessarily be subsumed to political ideology. I would agree, and I generally default in assuming that each one of us is the ultimate arbiter of our own judgment.

But, no man is an island.

Does Scruton’s thinking eventually lead us back to the problems that religion can have with artists and writers?

Is there anybody whom you trust to decide what you should and shouldn’t read?

Parents? Great authors? Public intellectuals? Professors? God? Laws and lawmakers? Religious leaders? A school-board? A democratic majority? People who think like you? A Council of Cultural Marxists?

The Department of Institutionalized Idiocy?

uploaded by mattbucher

Where Did You Put Your Imagination Again? Will Wilkinson, Title IX & Roger Scruton

Writers must be familiar in being seized by the uselessness and self-pitying solipsism which can accompany the practice (prose-stylist and/or serious artist I’m not).

Sound and fury, indeed.

Familiar passions stir, animated by some new issue of the day, hardening into place within the grooves of thought.

Frankly, it’d be more useful to address many current political, legal and cultural disputes within the tradition of Western arts & letters.  There are reasons why certain works of art have lasted so long and described, with such rich detail, our condition.

Getting all the weeping out over a good book doesn’t sound like a bad place to seek solace.

Alas, in the meantime…

-I was treating the below trend as part of a generalized decline of organized religion in America; some eventual taming of the frontier into more shopworn, European ideological disputes:

Will Wilkinson at the Niskanen Center: ‘How Libertarian Democracy Skepticism Infected the American Right’

Do people in a cohort identified by name really listen to writers giving advice to their cohort?:

Wilkinson:

‘How classical liberalism became weaponized anti-socialism      

The history of 20th century libertarian thought comes into focus when you view it as an attempt to preserve the humanitarian blessings of the liberal, capitalist market order against the illiberal depredations of encroaching socialism.

F.A. Hayek saw the Nazis and Soviets up close. In the early 1940s, when Hayek began writing The Road to Serfdom, the Nazis (who ruled his native Austria) were locked in a death-match for control of Europe with Stalin’s totalitarian communism and the scattered remnants of the old liberal order. Capitalist liberal democracy looked like it really might be doomed. Hayek believed that 18th and 19th century arguments for “the liberal creed” had grown stale, no longer inspiring allegiance. So he took it upon himself to restate and defend the argument for liberalism in contemporary terms against the specific threats to freedom in the age of the Soviets and Nazis.’

Speaking of weaponized libertarian anti-socialism-More on Title IX consequences, and the presumption of guilt and subjection to extra-legal authority some individuals have undergone within our universities…caught within a dragnet harming the environment of free-thought: ‘Pursuit of Injustice: Further Adventures Under Title IX:’

‘The tribulations resulting from trumped-up Title IX cases have been well documented by Laura Kipnis, among others. Some of them have spun off into legal proceedings. My experience at the University of Utah shows that Title IX can beget other kinds of administrative tribunals in higher education.

I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.’

It’s important to point-out that Laura Kipnis is a former Marxist-materialist, but nevertheless takes a principled stand against the overreach and authoritarian consequences of Title IX rules applied across the land. All Is Clear On Title IX And The State Of The Humanities?

A little behind the times might not be bad place to rest for a bit:

Roger Scruton gives J.K. Rowling her due, but spells aren’t prayers?

 

Summary & Clarification Of My Response To Andrew Sabl’s ‘Liberalism Beyond Markets’

Sabl’s piece here: ‘Liberalism Beyond Markets

My amended summary:

‘A realist liberal account of liberal institutions aims to recognize the fundamental complexity of individual human experience, the diversity of human thought, and the incompatibility of human dreams/aspirations.

The authority of liberal institutions and the laws they make into the present and future is de facto, a la Hume, and is negotiable, and must serve the self-interest of those choosing whether or not to follow such laws and decide upon their utility in the present with an eye to the past and the future.

Furthermore, Hayekian logic should not exclusively be applied to markets, but also: Democracy, rule of law, the Welfare State, and the practices of toleration [and] free-speech. Such ‘institutions’ have normative characteristics, which are described in reasonable detail (the 6 available if you click through).

Any individual, or groups of individuals may come to guide these institutions for a time, for their ends (instrumentally), but, a la Hayek, all parties will mutually benefit because these institutions in their own spheres, like the market in its own, appropriately reflect the fundamental complexity of individual human experience, the diversity of human thought, and the incompatibility of human dreams/aspirations.’

See the original response: A Response To Andrew Sabl’s ‘Liberalism Beyond Markets’

On that note, Mark Pennington’s Robust Political Economy: Classical Liberalism and the Future of Public Policy comes recommended.

Full diavlog here.

Duke professor Bruce Caldwell talks about his then new book on Hayek, an intellectual biography.

Some Hayek-Related Links

Via Twitter via Evonomics: ‘Hayek Meets Information Theory. And Fails.

So, replacing prices in a marketplace with AI deep learning models is apparently the way to go (reducing your knowledge, experience, and behavior to input nodes channeled through possible optimization distribution paths).

Let’s ignore the bureaucratic/political incentives for a moment…for man is a political animal.

Our author:

‘The understanding of prices and supply and demand provided by information theory and machine learning algorithms is better equipped to explain markets than arguments reducing complex distributions of possibilities to a single dimension, and hence, necessarily, requiring assumptions like rational agents and perfect foresight’

From the comments, a response:

‘His [Hayek’s] crucial point is that market prices perform a co-ordination function, allowing people to act AS IF they had the relevant knowledge.’

Also, epistemologically speaking, from the comments:

Indeed it is a central tenant of Austrian school economics (of which he was not quite a founding member, but is perhaps its most thoughtful member) that the efficient market hypothesis is false, that markets are never actually in equilibrium, that people are not perfectly rational agents, and that they most definitely do not have (and cannot have) perfect foresight.’

Your price re-allocation command console awaits, Captain.


On that note, Mark Pennington’s Robust Political Economy: Classical Liberalism and the Future of Public Policy comes recommended.

Full diavlog here.

Duke professor Bruce Caldwell talks about his then new book on Hayek, an intellectual biography.

Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

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

Repost-Cass Sunstein At The New Republic: ‘Why Paternalism Is Your Friend’

Mark Pennington Via Vimeo: ‘Democracy And The Deliberative Conceit’

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Many of the arguments surrounding ‘pure’ democracy and the eventual inclusion of everyone into an arrangement of equal political representation (one voice, one vote) can be fruitfully analyzed from a Hayekian perspective.

Many radical ideologists and idealists driving political change claim the above as justification for having eroded current institutional arrangements, of course.

This isn’t necessarily because such folks don’t have knowledge (we all have some knowledge, despite a collective madness usually residing in crowds, and despite everyone in a crowd knowing many different things even if they chose not to exercise such knowledge while in the crowd).

Rather, as Hayek offers, it’s because the knowledge simply doesn’t exist to run an economy from a central point, nor design and encompass a language from the top down, nor rationally plan how everyone ought to live through collective committee and/or pure democratic representation.  Such an ideal, thus, will never be realized.

Often, such idealism travels accompanied by undue faith in rationalism where claims to knowledge are used to defend one’s personal beliefs, interests, reputation and ideological commitments: As though it were all purely ‘rational,’ when, in fact, the reasoning comes later.

Often, undue weight is placed in scientism, where relatively limited understanding of recent scientific findings are pressed into service for political and ideological goals.  Obviously, such activity often leads the sciences become a tool to engineer and plan people’s lives in the political realm, rather than trying to figure out how nature works, or engineer systems that can understand and manipulate the natural world.

Now, of course, this doesn’t discredit the work of all economists, scientists, Dr. Johnson’s dictionary (but probably Esperanto), nor the importance of Statesman to have specific wisdom, knowledge and experience.

But, as to the reasons given for constant radical change towards pure and equal representative democracy in the area of political philosophy, Hayek has much to offer.

On this site see:Friedrich Hayek Discussion On Bloggingheads.  Bruce Caldwell discusses his then new book on Hayek.

Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

.A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSome Friday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

-Via a reader, via bloggingheads: Thomas Leonard and Glenn Loury discuss ‘The Power Of The Progressive

Glenn Loury via the comments:

‘Hayek’s argument against planning was rooted in his views about how to assimilate the knowledge relevant to economic decisions that, necessarily in a modern society, is dispersed among millions of distinct individuals. What feasible mechanisms of social action would allow this diffused information to be most efficiently brought to bear on decisions about the use of scarce resources? How can the actions of myriad individual producers and consumers be so coordinated as to exploit most effectively the specialized knowledge which each possesses about their respective circumstances?

His answer, of course, was that central planning could not improve upon — and invariably would lead to outcomes much worse than — what can be achieved via the price system operating within competitive markets where institutions of private property and freedom of contract are respected, and where individuals enjoy liberty to puruse their own best interests, as they understand them.

This, I wish to insist, is a profound insight into the functioning of economic systems which — though subject to qualification and exception — is largely a correct conclusion with far-reaching implications for the design of economic institutions and the conduct of public affairs. To my mind, the world’s history since publication of The Road to Serfdom has largely vindicated Hayek’s concerns…

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