Repost-Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Are Savages Noble?’

Review here (You have to answer a few questions to access the archives)

Bailey reviews two new books on anthropology, one by Jared Diamond, the other by Marlene Zuk.  Inevitably questions of political philosophy arise:

‘Modern anthropological research may be settling the great debate between the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes and the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Was the state of nature a “war of every man against every man” in which life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” as Hobbes wrote? Or did “savages” live in utopian bliss, thanks to “the tranquility of their passions and their ignorance of vice,” as Rousseau believed?’

Libertarians tend to be more comfortable with the Magna Carta, British common law, Hobbes, Locke, Adam Smith and onwards, as well as some products of Enlightenment reason:

‘Diamond simply doesn’t engage with the notion that development of specific human institutions, such as private property and the rule of law, have enabled a happy portion of the global population to rise above humanity’s natural state of abject poverty. His description of trade among traditional societies, in which one group specializes in pottery while another focuses on canoes, completely misses how trade makes both groups better through the higher productivity made possible by pursuing comparative advantage. Diamond characterizes the goal of business transactions in modern societies as winning profits by inflicting losses, missing entirely the fact that modern markets consist largely of world-spanning networks of cooperation.’

Worth a read.

Related On This SiteFrom The Chronicle Of Higher Ed: “Misguided Nostalgia For Our Paleo Past”

What happens when you romanticize the aboriginal? Romantic primitivism: Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’

The tragic, romantic German view…Robert Merry At The National Interest: ‘Spengler’s Ominous Prophecy’

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Peter Levine discusses the Nietzsche connection here.

Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?:  Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

Darwin and the arts: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

You know, Plato addressed Thrasymachus in the Republic about the will of the stronger: From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Might Makes Right’…Darwinian Conservatism’…From Edge: ‘Re: What Makes People Republican? By Jonathan Haidt’…Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

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

Kori Schake At The Hoover Institution: ‘Flawed Diamond’

Full piece here.

Jared Diamond has a new book out entitled the World Until Yesterday.  He’s consistently broadened and generalized from his own field of anthropology and reached a mass audience.  Schake calls his latest a bit of a vanity project which doesn’t necessarily convince:

‘In this book, Diamond draws from his extensive field research in New Guinea to share his views on the shortcomings of contemporary American society. Primitive approaches to social problems, he thinks, would better serve our society. For example, he argues for: dedicating more resources to mediation as an alternative to civil lawsuits, establishing “conventional monopolies” to smooth out trade fluctuations, deemphasizing competition and the desire for excellence among children, on-demand nursing for infants, spending more time talking to our children, devising new living conditions for the elderly, accepting that the gulf between rich and poor in the United States provides an explanation of the popularity of religion in our country, preserving language diversity, and ending obesity.’

Should we model some of our behavior upon that of the tribes of Papau New-Guinea, and what moral reasoning does Diamond use to arrive at such a position for Americans?  What empirical research?

***In the case of Diamond and Steven Pinker, it’s interesting to note that an anthropologist and a psychologist have become generalists, and addressed questions of moral thinking, human political organization, and political philosophy more generally.

The L.A. Times has a book review here.

If you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts.

Also On This Site:  From Savage Minds: More On The Lawsuit Against Jared Diamond…Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?:  Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit…and: Jared Diamond: “Vengeance Is Ours” In The New Yorker

There has been a movement of people in anthropology to romanticize tribal life, many of them tend toward Left-of-Center political philosophies Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’…Romantic primitivism in Australia: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’

Hirsi Ali seems to have found the embrace of the West out of both tribal localism and its customs, Islam, and the short-sightedness of multiculturalism.  Notice non-Muslims are not the ones threatening her with death: Tunku Varadarajan Reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Nomad’ At The Daily BeastRepost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote ForTolerance And Inclusion’

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The West is less violent? 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”‘

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

Blackburn not so impressed with the Blank Slate: Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy DepartmentAt 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”‘

From Lunch With The Financial Times Via A & L Daily: Jared Diamond

Full post here.

A quick visit with Diamond.  I should point out that I’m not familiar with much more than Guns, Germs, And Steel which I read a while ago.  One of the primary ideas motiviating Jared Diamond’s writing is that man’s relationship to nature is vital (I don’t suppose I disagree).  However, he also makes some assumptions about that relationship with which I  disagree.  

There’s also an idea of moral equivalence between cultures in his work (and some kind of deep extension of humanism that is morally compelling), but it clearly this has its limits as well, and I suspect some roots in moral relativism, which of course is yet another Western idea.  

Anyways, here’s a review of his Collapse.

***If you have more information about the New Yorker Lawsuit, and are not an interested party (or perhaps are), please respond should you feel inclined.  I’m still inclined to give Diamond the benefit of the doubt.

Also On This Site:  From Savage Minds: More On The Lawsuit Against Jared DiamondFrom The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit…and: Jared Diamond: “Vengeance Is Ours” In The New Yorker

From The Chronicle Of Higher Ed Via A & L Daily: “Gaia In The Light Of Modern Science”

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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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