It Didn’t Take A Rocket Scientist To See A Lot Of This Stuff Coming-Some Links On The New Sources Of Meaning And The Same Old Human Nature

This blog is currently operating as follows: Many radical and doctrinal ideologues aim to co-opt institutions, bending them toward utopian goals, and often in dysfunctional and authoritarian directions.  First come the promises of liberation (sexual, political, moral), then for most, a new set of rules, authority, mob logic and the same old human problems.

Jonathan Haidt At Heterodox Academy on these new ‘blasphemy laws:’

‘In the wake of the violence at Middlebury and Berkeley, and in the aftermath of the faculty mob that coalesced to condemn gender studies professor Rebecca Tuvel, many commentators have begun analyzing the new campus culture of intersectionality as a form of fundamentalist religion including public rituals with more than a passing resemblance to witch-hunts.’

It’d be nice if many secularists and political liberals said something like the following: ‘If we continue to secularize society, we will entrench many postmoderns, activists, radicals, people steeped in resentment, and narrow socialist ideologues, but the gains in liberty will be worth it. We might even inspire a return to old-timey religion.  If this happens, we will freak-out about this turn of events. In the meantime, free speech and free thought will not be upheld, except with moral courage against the mob we’ve helped incubate and gestate.’

-Via an interview with Ken Minogue from 2006:

‘BC: What do you make of political correctness? There are those who would argue it’s a thing of the past. Frankly, I don’t see how that’s possible. It seems to me that cultural Marxism is more regnant than ever, would you agree?

KM: In my time, a great deal of what used to be intuitive and instinctive (such as good manners) has been replaced by the rule-bound and rationalised. Political correctness is a politicised version of good manners offering power to the kind of meddlesome people who want to tell others how to behave. As to Marxism, it was merely one more illusion that purported to be the key to life. It is significant in that it reveals one of the dominant passions still at work in our civilisation – the passion to create happiness by technology in the hands of a supposedly enlightened elite.’

From Mike Nayna’s Youtube channel: Radical students and some of their thought-leading administrators have a talk at Middlebury:

Kinda still reminds me of The Wave:

The Boston Evening Transcript

The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript
Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.


When evening quickens faintly in the street,
Wakening the appetites of life in some
And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,
I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning
Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,
If the street were time and he at the end of the street,
And I say, “Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript.”

T.S. Eliot

Such a brave stance to take:  Six writers apparently know what is acceptable speech and what isn’t, and thus didn’t think the folks at Charlie Hebdo engaged in acceptable speech.

British popular thinker Alain De Botton floated the idea of building an ‘atheist temple’ in the heart of London. He recommends combing through religious practices for useful organizing principles in response to the New Atheists. You can read more about it here, which includes a radio interview/podcast.

Did the Unitarian Universalists get there first, with a mishmash of faith and secular humanism?

A brief introduction to Adam Smith’s ‘Theory Of Moral Sentiments’

Beware the men of systems, moralizers, rationalists, idealists and utopians:

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’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

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

Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Repost: Various Products Of Radical Reason And Reactions To Them- John Gray At The New Statesman

Original piece here (updated).

Gray reviews Daniel Oppenheimer’s ‘Exit Right: The People Who Left The Left And Reshaped The American Century’

From the Amazon blurb on the book:

‘By going deep into the minds of six apostates Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, Ronald Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz, and Christopher Hitchens, Oppenheimer offers an unusually intimate history of the American left, and the right’s reaction.’

Gray highlights something I certainly find attractive about conservatism:

‘Ever since it emerged in the late 18th century as a distinct tradition of modern thought, conservatism has been defined by a suspicion of grand schemes of world improvement. Whether their thinking was grounded in a religious belief in original sin (as in the cases of Edmund Burke and the American conservative Russell Kirk) or a sceptical view of the power of human reason (as in David Hume and Michael Oakeshott), conservatives distrusted any attempt to remake the world according to the dictates of high-minded ideals and abstract models.’

Neo-conservatism comes in for criticism as having a hand in all of modern American politics.

Gray:

‘George W Bush’s crazed pursuit of regime change and its continuation in some policies of the Obama administration, particularly when acting under the direction of Hillary Clinton, were the result.’

A few humble observations about the second Iraq invasion:

There was a reassertion of many Americans’ nationalism, pride, and fear, especially after 9/11, and the desire for revenge against that rather awful blow against civilians and innocents at home, in a business setting no less (3,000 lives lost and a lot of terror). Strategically, Iraq could be convincingly argued to be a serious misstep.

George W. Bush’s inherited guilt at leaving the Iraqi Kurds to their fate under Saddam on his father’s watch seems to have played a part (for which I have no evidence, but I’ve long thought…which is a product of deeper American life and politics).

Let me know if/how wrong I might be.

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Perhaps one of Gray’s main takeaways, a la Oppenheimer, is the almost religious-type experience some people have had within Communist ideals, an experience which drastically shaped this past century, and our lives.

He finishes with:

‘Except for Chambers and Horowitz, Oppenheimer’s apostates learned very little from their journey across the political spectrum. Those who banged the drum for war were as ignorant of the countries whose governments they wanted to overthrow as they been had of the workers they had claimed to be fighting for in the past. In both cases they used people of whom they knew nothing to satisfy their own need for significance. Believing they had left behind the mistakes of the radical left, they helped create a new right that repeated the same follies. Along the way, an older and more civilised conservatism was consigned to the memory hole.’

Hitchens could be entertaining, especially on grounds I’m guessing he knew instinctively well as a former Trotskyite: Ideologies, while highlighting truths, promise a one-stop shop on truth, knowledge, how to be in the world, what to do and what the future will be.

People can kill for less, and when they adhere to such systems, then they can end-up killing more:

Related On This Site: Repost-John Gray Reviews Francis Fukuyama At The Literary Review: ‘Destination Denmark’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

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

More Speech, Please, And A Repost-Jonathans Franzen & Haidt: Two Links On Modern Liberalism & You

Eugene Volokh here.

I keep hearing about a supposed “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, or statements such as, “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas.

The folks at Charlie Hebdo didn’t find the PEN ‘activists’ much to think about.

Michael Moynihan has been keeping an eye on some people so you don’t have to.  The 1st amendment is pretty basic, people.

Even Walter Kirn got in on the action:


Sam Tanenhaus, former editor of the NY Times, took a look at Jonathan Franzen’s then new novel ‘Purity‘ (Tanenhaus is also working on a biography of William F Buckley Jr…).

He touched on Lionel Trilling’s work and his influence on the mid 20th century American novel:

‘Trilling wrote that in 1948, at the dawn of the cold war, and for many years his literary prescription seemed a misfire—the fault, in all likelihood, of his own embroilment in the ideological soul-searching of his generation: the 1930s radicals who were drawn to communism but later discovered the facts of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin. This disillusionment informed Trilling’s own novel about ideological conflict, The Middle of the Journey (1947), a stab toward the new fiction he had in mind. It is sensible and sensitive, but more cultural seminar than work of imagination. The “issues” it dissects—the delusions of fellow travelers, the shallowness of the modern liberal when forced to confront the depth and reach of Soviet crimes, the progressive belief in the future that rested on an almost childlike denial of death—felt bloodless and beside the point at a time when the developing story was no longer the false lure of communism but the blazing forth of the affluent society.’

Worth a read.  Drop a line if you’ve read Franzen’s work.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, perhaps that post-WWII corporatist model of big companies and big government tied together, knotted with the help an arguably more religiously traditional cultural fabric (married with kids younger, company men, wives at home) is not coming back, or at least in drastic need of a remodel, according to Walter Russell Mead.

The Cold War is over, though a kleptocratic, ex-KGB run Russian State is causing enough problems right now.

On this site, see: From The Claremont Institute Via YouTube: Charles Kesler In Conversation With Walter Russell Mead

Times have changed.

The 60’s happened, along with the radicalism of the New Left gaining traction in many American universities and arguably a more vigorous individualism and tendency towards social liberalism/libertarianism culture-wide.

On this site, see: Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss

It would seem defenders of religious liberties may no longer have a majority stake in ‘the culture,’ or may at least come to find themselves grateful for constitutionally protected liberties.

Add competitive global labor markets to disturb the remnants of the New Deal and the Big Firm landscape (bad healthcare incentives, underfunded pension liabilities and social programs), along with rapid technological change and there’s a lot going on in American life.

How are such changes being reflected in the novel?  Are novelists reflecting your inner life faithfully enough to be worth reading?

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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, on Jonathan Haidt:

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 Politics:’

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Communist corner: I remember reading a piece at the NY Times about Trotsky’s great-grandaughter, the neuroscientist Nora Volkow:

‘Dr. Volkow generally forswears any interest in politics per se, but midway through a long day of meetings last month she sighed and acknowledged, “science and politics are intertwined.” We think we have free will, she continued, but we are foiled at every turn. First our biology conspires against us with brains that are hard-wired to increase pleasure and decrease pain. Meanwhile, we are so gregarious that social systems — whether you call them peer pressure or politics — reliably dwarf us as individuals. “There is no way you can escape.”

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As for a critique of Albany Plaza, another modernist/bureaucratic concrete wonderland, here’s Robert Hughes:

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As for the 60’s, how about Pete Seeger’s lifelong Communism?:

‘Seeger never really did abandon the dream of communism, despite the inconvenient fact that it had long since (starting around 1918) transformed into a pitiful nightmare. So it was unsurprising that in 1995 he would provide an effusive blurb for a book of poetry written by Tomas Borge, the brutal secret police chief and interior minister of Sandinista Nicaragua (“An extraordinary collection of poems and prose”).’

See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times

Related On This Site: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under ObamaFrom 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’