Wandering the Sea Of Fog Above Your Hotel Bed-Diminished Things: Theodore Dalrymple On Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag couldn’t mean such nonsense, could she?

‘The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilisation has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions.’

Yes and no, probably.

Traversing the rocky outcrops of the postmodern landscape can lead to occasional outbursts of moral grandeur.  Beneath the fog, hilltops can present themselves as though all of ‘(H)istory’ is coming into view.

Bathing in the thermal pools of group identity, deep inside of this ritual or that, perhaps chanting ‘power-theories’ to feel some warmth and comfort; all may quiet the conscience for a time.

Sooner or later, though, action is required. The injustice becomes unbearable.  The Self lies suspended atop ‘(H)istory’ and the utopias to come under its oppressions.

What were once Romantic visions of grandeur high above the clouds (is that an old German castle?) were still available to some Modernists, but maybe even fewer postmodernists, yet.

Where are these things headed?

Addition: It would seem I can state the radical case well enough that actual radicals are mistaking this post for one of sympathy.

—-

Be careful where you put your Self, dear reader, as your moral sentiments, hope and despair will follow.

If I’m going to make an appeal to your Self, then at least let me do it in more pragmatic fashion, away from these many post-Enlightenment dead-ends and radical discontents.

Related On This Site:Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

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

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’

From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’

Some Gathered Links On Plato, Harold Bloom, Anti-Idealism And Anti-Libertarianism

Harold Bloom also wrote a book on Plato:

Via Mencius Moldbug: ‘Why I Am Not A Libertarian

If you are a libertarian, you are already resigned to the fact that most fashionable people think of you as a nutcase. Today we are going to ask you to crawl a little farther out on that limb, and suggest that you replace your libertarian views with thoughts that are even more extreme.

And ‘Idealism Is Not Great’

However, there’s another meaning of idealist in English—a historical one. Idealism is actually a philosophical school. Or rather a number of philosophical schools. I find the term most useful as it pertains to the line from Plato to Hegel to Emerson to Dewey. (It sometimes helps if you think of them as evil kung-fu masters.)

As posted:

Some years ago, Stuart Lawrence, on the late Roger Sandall’s site, imagined Plato and Aristotle having a conversation about Grand Theft Auto.

Lawrence:

‘Used judiciously and with a suitably grim humour I think Plato can be a help. On the one hand he suggests that the issues raised by the relation of Showbiz to the rest of society have changed little over more than two thousand years. On the other, that the myriad effects of high-tech modern illusionism, both social and political, should not be too casually brushed aside.

From Edward Feser: ‘Jackson on Popper on materialism

‘Popper’s World 3 is in some respects reminiscent of Plato’s realm of the Forms, but differs in that Popper takes World 3 to be something man-made.  As I noted in the earlier post just linked to, this makes his positon at least somewhat comparable the Aristotelian realist (as opposed to Platonic realist) view that universals are abstracted by the mind from the concrete objects that instantiate them rather than pre-existing such abstraction.’

Quite a comment thread over there…

Burnyeat beginning at minute 2:20 of video five:

‘Aristotelianism is actually opposed to that sort of materialism [Heraclitus and atomic doctrine] but Aristotelianism carries the war so far into the enemy camp that it’s actually very hard to reconcile the Aristotelian philosophy with the modern scientific enterprise which says a lot about atoms, the movements of particles…matter and that sort of stuff….

‘…and indeed I think it was no accident that when the modern scientific enterprise got going, it got going by throwing away the Aristotelianism which had so dominated the Middle-Ages.’

But, Platonism is much easier to reconcile with the modern scientific enterprise and that’s why I think, since the Renaissance, really, Platonism has lived on after the death of Aristotelianism because that’s a philosophy you can use, or be influenced by, if you’re seeking to show how scientific and spiritual values can be reconciled…if you want to do justice to the complexities of things where materialism is giving just too simplistic a story.’

Review here of a book by author Luke O’Sullivan on 20th century British conservative and thinker Michael Oakeshott. Other books by O’Sullivan on Oakeshott can be found here.

If you’re interested in critiques on the effects of rationalism and utopianism in politics and political theory, and a defense of the familiar and the traditional in the face of Socialist, Marxist, and other ideologies, it’s probably worth looking into.

Drop a line if this is your area.

Gray:

‘That Oakeshott’s thought does not in the end hang together may not be very important. What system of philosophy does? But the fact is ironic given his intellectual antecedents. He was one of the last of the British Idealists, who, as opponents of empiricism, understood truth not as meaning correspondence with any kind of external reality but as a form of internal coherence in our thinking.’

and:

‘He wrote for himself and anyone else who might be interested; it is unlikely that anyone working in a university today could find the freedom or leisure that are needed to produce a volume such as this. Writing in 1967, Oakeshott laments, ‘I have wasted a lot of time living.’ Perhaps so, but as this absorbing selection demonstrates, he still managed to fit in a great deal of thinking’

The empricial realism and transcendental idealism of Kant is not mentioned

-In writing an entire undergraduate thesis on Kant’s transcendental idealism, Niall Ferguson sketches a Kissinger who bypassed the historical determinism of the Hegelians and the economic determinism of the Marxists. Freedom has to be lived and experienced to thrive and be understood, and Kant gets closer to championing this conception of individual freedom than do many German thinkers downstream of Kant.
-According to Ferguson, this still tends to make Kissinger an idealist on the idealist/realist foreign policy axis, but it also likely means he’s breaking with the doctrines which animate many on the political Left, hence his often heretical status.

Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Via A Reader-‘Locke’s Empiricism, Berkeley’s Idealism’

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason? Empirical Realism and Transcendental Idealism From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

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

Full discussion here.

A summary of chapters in a reading group presentation:

Jerry has argued throughout the book that the conception of the person employed within public reason liberalism and liberalism broadly speaking must move in this Hayekian direction. If public reason liberals follow Jerry’s lead, the fundamental structure of public reason and even the nature of the social contract theorists’ project must substantially change. In short, political justification must not begin with deriving the rationality of rule-following from a teleological conception of practical reason. Instead, it must begin with an understanding of the nature of human beings who are already rule-followers and the nature of the moral emotions and cooperative activities that accompany such rule-following. It is in this way that Jerry moves most forcefully away from Hobbesian conceptions of public reason. He goes further by arguing that even the Kantian conception of the person he endorses cannot be constructed out of practical reason alone. Instead, human nature contains Kantian elements for thoroughly Humean-Hayekian-evolution reasons. Our rule-following nature is contingent on our social development (though no less contingent than our goal-seeking nature).’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.   Gaus tries to reconcile three ideas:

1.  The reality of deep disagreement, and the fact that private reason leads each of us to vastly differing conclusions about the nature of truth and how to live and what to do; how to constrain our behavior.

2.  The principle that no one has any natural authority over anyone else

3.  The principle that social authority is necessary for social life.  We are already born and woven into such a fabric and are already rule-followers to some extent.

—————————-

For Gaus, instrumentalists do not deal persuasively with number 003, and some empirical research, cog-sci, economics etc. is perhaps necessary for the practice of good political philosophy.

In addition, he cites his three primary influences as Thomas Hobbes, John Rawls, and Amartya Sen.

Some liberaltarians I know are quite pleased.

Addition: And a friend asks?:  “Can you see life, liberty, and property from here?”

Addition: Public Reason also has an audio interview here. Likely worth your time.

Related On This SiteJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads...

Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

..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-Triggernometry On Ukraine-A Few Links & Thoughts

Via a reader (begins at min 23:00). Some insights on Ukraine from someone with family on both sides on the ground. There are some decent insights relative to mainstream sources.

As previously mentioned, the United States, under Obama particularly, but for the last fifteen years, has removed much of its footprint from the Middle-East, Afghanistan, and now even Europe. Domestically, U.S. political leadership has calcified, becoming brittle and old, while (from my perspective) new factions of deeper, further New, New Left and New Right are forming outside of a weakened mainstream. We’ll see how bad the weakened institutions get and who comes into authority, and with what ideas (worst case is the Platonic map I’ve been using…). Public sentiment cleaves much closer to nihilism/existentialism in the postmodern soup, these days. Anarchy and libertarianism, from my point of view, are finding much wider audiences.

The ‘economics-first’ Euro-zone (primarily a German/French alliance) has been counting on old treaties and American leadership. All while buying gas and trading with the folks in charge of Russia. There also seems be the same ideological true-belief found in the gears of liberal techno-bureaucratic institutions everywhere (liberals and radical Leftists are often in conflict, even while working against their traditional/religious/conservative enemies). Keep an eye on energy policy, green-belief and inflation (what leaders do vs. what they say) as well as gas prices here at home.

As for the media these days, new technology, and the Boomers/Gen-X/Millenials management issues, I like the idea that people tend to fight more and more over less and less, and the less there appears to be. I often imagine to whom I would look if I were coming of age in such a chaotic environment. Dear Reader, I do worry about many over-promised, under-delivered youth dealing with such institutional failures and realignments. This requires me having hope in the basic soundness (body/mind/judgment/character) of younger folks I know, rather than trust in ‘systems’.

As for information, it might be better to just aim for basic online survey courses (with who knows how high an error rate) over ‘public-opinion experts’ and public education if you’re an average Joe. The two major parties and public discourse have devolved into vindictive finger-pointing.

I’d advise picking-up a book or two and find the better sources if you’re so inclined.

This is, alas, a blog in the land of Substack (and whatever’s next). You’ve been warned.

Thanks for stopping-by, and to everyone that has.

Also On This Site: Taking on the telos of progress and questioning  modern liberal assumptions with a largely nihilistic approach (progress is learned but doesn’t stay learned in human affairs; the lesson of various 20th centry writers and one of the main purposes of a humanities education): Repost-John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’…Repost-John Gray Reviews Francis Fukuyama At The Literary Review: ‘Destination Denmark’…Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

People on the Left and a more moderate middle, and from libertarian conservative backgrounds are increasingly challenging core ideological assumptions of far Left doctrines having crept into so many institutions.  They must defend their own disciplines and be of exemplary character: Repost-Moving Towards Truth And Liberty, But What To Conserve?-Some Thoughts On The Bret & Eric Weinstein Interview…Jonathan Haidt At Heterodox Academy: ‘The Blasphemy Case Against Bret Weinstein, And Its Four Lessons For Professors’…Charles Murray From ‘The Happiness Of People’…The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’

Repost-Looking For Liberals In The Postmodern Wilderness-Jordan Peterson & Stephen Hicks

A restatement of Anglican, British conservatism with deep Kantian, Hegelian roots: Repost-Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’…Link To Roger Scruton’s First Of Three Charles Test Lectures Hosted By Princeton University

The Religious Conservative American right advocating a step back from a common Constitutional project?: Two Links To Rod Dreher On How To Live And What To Do... Another view of the 60’s radicalism on campus: Repost-A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

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’

Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Conservative To Neo-Conservative To Liberal-A Few Thoughts & Links

Maybe I’m off?: As much as there are truth and knowledge claims, about ourselves and the world, embedded within our ideas about ourselves and the world, it seems we’re often arguing over who should be in charge. Agree on some ‘is’ questions, surround yourself with like minds, and then pursue the ‘oughts’ through education, politics and law.

Oh, there will be authority.

Something like the conservative position-One Nation Under God. Defend home and hearth, and the Constitution. The country was born of revolution, yet not the French, nor the Russian revolutions. The country wasn’t built upon the utopias proffered by Marxist radicals, nor anarchists, nor even the anarcho-capitalist libertarian types (perhaps something more like the Euro-project, built on economic allegiances).

Something like the neo-conservative position-At some point, get mugged by reality, and start questioning many truth and knowledge claims of the liberal idealist and secular humanist project. Defend homes within communities, and use the American military to advance secular humanism and humanistic ideals around the globe. Use law and policy, and the American military, to spread many elements of the Western project in which you pursue your highest goods (Many in China and Russia, and many Muslims and Islamists disagree).

Something like the current Liberal position-Defend houses within the community and ‘societal’ interests in our ‘modern’ world, but America itself may not be worth defending as it is and has been. Many activists and radicals in the party do seem to be co-opting many academic, institutional and bureaucratic positions. Become somewhat invested in the ‘Hitler-Year-Zero’ Marxist conception of conservatives, traditionalists, and religious believers as potentially ‘evil.’ Standing against progress is certainly morally questionable, and clearly against (H)istory.

The positive visions (environmental/globalist/Health & Safetyism) lead us all into a Statism and authoritarianism present all along.

In the meantime, Johnny, get your gun and fight for Ukraine.

—On that note:

What about a good ‘ol Humanities education?

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.

Friedrich 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.

Martha 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 neo-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.

Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism.  Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism–>Wherever We’re Heading Now

Maybe it all started with Beethoven:  Everyone’s a (S)elf.

Isaiah Berlin pretty much blackballed Roger Scruton, so it’s not all roses.

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.

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?

See Protein Wisdom for a discussion about language and intentionalism, and how it gets deployed.

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

The nihilist claims are deeper than you may think, and the Nietzschean, and Will–>Will to Power German influence is also deeper than most people think; offering profound criticisms of the scientific project, liberalism, liberal institutions, and a secular humanism which is the air many folks breathe these days.

Here’s a somewhat similar vein of thought.  From friesian.com:

Although Anglo-American philosophy tended to worship at the feet of science, the drift of academia to the left has led to characteristically totalitarian political attacks on science itself — this despite the leftist program to use “climate science” to impose a Sovietized command economy on energy and the tactic to smear climate skeptics, i.e. “Deniers,” through associaton with Creationism or Neo-Nazi Holocaust denial. None of that has stopped the “post-modern” move…’

Repost-From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-‘A Conversation With Peter Thiel’

Full reprint here.

Peter Thiel started the Thiel Fund.

So, what about the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S….and the rise of technology?:

Fukuyama asks:

‘Let’s talk about the social impact of these changes. Those stagnating median wages basically translate into a guy who had been working in the auto industry or the steel industry at $15 or $20 an hour but is now a very downwardly mobile checker at Walmart. So does the government have a role in protecting that kind of individual?’

At the moment, it’s tough to see where all the people who relied on clerical, manufacturing, textiles, etc. go…

And Thiel on higher education:

There’s an education bubble, which is, like the others, psychosocial. There’s a wide public buy-in that leads to a product being overvalued because it’s linked to future expectations that are unrealistic. Education is similar to the tech bubble of the late 1990s, which assumed crazy growth in businesses that didn’t pan out. The education bubble is predicated on the idea that the education provided is incredibly valuable. In many cases that’s just not true.’

And on parts of the problem, with some mention of Leo Strauss:

‘It’s a mistake to simply fixate on the problem of political correctness in its narrow incarnation of campus speech codes; it’s a much more pervasive problem. For instance, part of what fuels the education bubble is that we’re not allowed to articulate certain truths about the inequality of abilities.’

Perhaps that’s what makes Thiel lean libertarian; many people on the Left will likely only address the inequality of abilities through the pursuit of equality, usually through Statism.  I suspect that political correctness isn’t going anywhere, and will simply become more entrenched in our institutions and drive political and social change.  It’s in the interest of many people backing it to do so.

Related 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

Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’……From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Using Politics To Change Minds Means Others Will Use Politics To Change Your Mind-A Few Links

-Alas, the Scientific American! From Darwinian Conservatism: Was Edward O. Wilson a Racist? Monica McLemore’s Fraudulent Claim. I expect such ignorance and radicalism, as well as more knowledgeable disagreement to occur, but just not to be given a voice in the Scientific American.

It is a failure of stewardship.

As to Islamic terrorism: The same problem regarding FBI policy moral equivocation (it’s all terrorism and who knows what Malik Faisal Akram’s motives were?) could lead to an uncomfortable question: What institutional downsides have come through doctrines of social change?

My skepticism in electing Obama came from what I regarded as the illusion that electing someone with African ancestry would actually bridge our history. Was our political apparatus and political class up for such a task? I don’t know another, better way, around this especially difficult problem, but here we are.

The views of the old Civil Rights Squad, from my point of view, are understandable, emerging from long history and direct experience. The injustice is bone-deep, and one need only read a little of the Harlem Renaissance, on civil disobedience, or listen to a majority of American popular music to share in it enough to generate understanding and fellow-feeling (you know, some of what a good humanities education is for). Such injustice creates pain, loss, anger and despair. Radical doctrines create promises of healing, belonging, targets of resentment and hope/purpose/explanations. Radical doctrines also mobilize this sentiment into direct political action.

The success of these ideas, and all ideas, really, should be judged on results, not intentions. Over-promising and under-delivering usually leads to more suffering. The poorest and weakest among us will generally suffer the most. Such ideas will be followed to their logical conclusions until enough people get tired of such reality, and make different choices.

Many wrongs, piled together, don’t necessarily make rights. These are deeper problems.

Here’s a poem that’s stayed with me all these years:

The Bean Eaters

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering …
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Repost-The Conservatarian Curve-Some Reasons To Remain Skeptical Of ‘Culture’ And Cultural Criticism Of A Certain Kind

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?’

If you do manage to develop a bedrock of secular humanism in civil society (subject to that society’s particular traditions and history), won’t that society still have need of its own myths?

Even though Fascism and Communism have been discredited in theory and in practice, adherents remain (look no further than most American academies).

Sandall notes the Popperian elements discussed as from ‘The Open Society And Its Enemies‘, which as a theory, stretches deep into human nature and the West’s Greek traditions.

Is Popper’s ‘critical rationalism’ some of what we’re seeing from the intellectual dark-webbers, or at least many bright people pushing against the fascistic elements found within many far-Left movements, just those movements endorse and feed a far-right, identitarian and ideological response?:

‘…the people and institutions of the open society that Popper envisioned would be imbued with the same critical spirit that marks natural science, an attitude which Popper called critical rationalism. This openness to analysis and questioning was expected to foster social and political progress as well as to provide a political context that would allow the sciences to flourish.’

Sandall again on Popper:

‘His 1945 The Open Society and Its Enemies started out from the contrast between closed autarkic Sparta and free-trading protean Athens, and used it to illuminate the conflict between Fascism and Communism on the one hand, and Western democracy on the other.’

but…:

‘Is an ‘open society’ also supposed to be an ‘open polity’ with open borders? Médecins sans Frontières is all very well: but states cannot be run on such lines. Popper’s is a theory of society, not a theory of the state—and it seems to me that his book offers no clear account of the wider political preconditions that enable ‘open societies’ to both flourish and defend themselves.’

So, how did Sandall see the idea of ‘culture’ having its orgins?:

‘But at a higher philosophical level, and starting out in England, it owed more to the energetic publicising of Herder’s ideas by the Oxford celebrity Sir Isaiah Berlin — ideas of irresistible appeal to the post-Marxist and post-religious liberal mind.’

Open borders and open societies? A desire a ‘culture’ has to forge and solidify its own identity?

Kelley Ross (open border libertarian last I checked) responds to a correspondent on value-pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism.

J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Back to Sandall:

‘Then something happened: the English word “culture” in the sense employed by Matthew Arnold in his 1869 Culture and Anarchy got both anthropologized and Germanised — and anthropological culture was the opposite of all that. It meant little more in fact than a social system.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

A rather tangled web indeed…

Further entanglements on this site, possibly related:

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…

From Edward Feser: ‘Jackson on Popper on materialism

‘Popper’s World 3 is in some respects reminiscent of Plato’s realm of the Forms, but differs in that Popper takes World 3 to be something man-made. As I noted in the earlier post just linked to, this makes his positon at least somewhat comparable the Aristotelian realist (as opposed to Platonic realist) view that universals are abstracted by the mind from the concrete objects that instantiate them rather than pre-existing such abstraction.’

Quite a comment thread over there…

Popper:

…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

Related On This Site:Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism…

Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Miles Burnyeat On Plato’Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

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

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Fred Siegel On The German Influence And Kelley Ross On Some Of Roger Scruton’s Thinking

The ACL-Who? It’s A Mess Out There

The F.I.R.E is, perhaps, the new ACLU.

As for the old ACLU these days? A free-speech mission, becoming a legal business, devolving into an anti-speech racket is something to behold.

You stand up for the neo-Nazis right to speak and assemble, because you may need those rights, too.

Did you think you’d just drive-on-by?

Many people, volunteering as our betters in the U.S., have been busy institutionalizing a rather anti-establishment ethos. The problem is, many of these people are now the establishment. Many 60’s boomers (hanging in there, baby) are something like idealists. Holding authority, while simultaneously holding many anti-authoritarian views, is a tragi-comedy.

In my experience, beneath idealists are radicals, and radicals generally hold certain moral goods (ideologically nested) above all else as they drive for disruption. Suppressing the speech of the ‘fascist’ is more important than free speech. Doing violence against the ‘fascist’ is celebrated and much preferable to non-violence. Breaking the law is by far more important than than rule of law.

I personally saw the Antifa violence spread (always here, really) as C.H.O.P came and went. After a while, I saw a small, pro-patriot (kinda New Right) response fill in the void. It was a sad bit of street theater (unserious but very real). Whatever was more civil, respectful and dignified is now less so, and this dynamic would seem to be the new, national normal.

In my experience, along with idealists are also many anti-‘capitalist’, bureaucratic, technocratic, types. The knowledge is available to build brilliant new liberal, inclusive, diverse and global societies. Communitiarian, purely democratic, and ‘equal’ societies are moral goods in themselves, at least in the face of injustice. Political science, the DSM, all the right economics based on deeper math, will free more labor than before and potentially create new political orders.

I’m not sure such glittering enterprises are even possible.

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.’

Many people seem to believe that because the modern world is fallen, it’s easier to blame all the normal self-interest, political corruption and rule-following punishment out there as belonging to the religionist, the racist, and the traditionalist.

The ‘-ist’ tends to see only other ‘-ists’ all the way down. The (C)ause tends to be the highest moral good and this leads to all kinds of dangers.

Still an interesting discussion:

Times come and go: I remember visiting my father’s small, Connecticut hometown. Many factories (spooled-thread, fabric, cutting tools) had become derelict. ‘What did they used to make there?’ we’d ask, driving along, visiting his old haunts. The shallower valleys, stony soil and New England village greens were foreign to me. We’d pass by busted, boarded-up windows and out-of-use smokestacks. ‘Did they actually make these things by hand?’

Most of that industry never came back.

Now imagine losing larger: The rise and fall of automobile manufacturing in Detroit, and all the supply chains throughout Ohio; whole towns dwindling down. Much of that industry isn’t coming back either.

The Englightenment/Romantic tension…the horror of rationalist systems which claimed knowledge of man’s ends, but also a defense of both positive and negative liberties-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Clive James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works of Joseph Conrad.

This one’s stuck with me over the last few months:

‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’

As for politics on the other side, it’s a mess of anarcho-libertarians, non-anarchic libertarians, the New Right, the Old Right, the never-Trumpers, religious believers, traditionalists and a lot of pro- and anti-establishment vitriol.

Three Quotes On And By Californians

Louis Menand’s piece at the New Yorker: ‘Out Of Bethlehem:

The radicalization of Joan Didion:

‘After the Old Sacramento moment, Didion came to see the whole pioneer mystique as bogus from the start. The cultivation of California was not the act of rugged pioneers, she decided. It was the act of the federal government, which built the dams and the weirs and the railroads that made the state economically exploitable, public money spent on behalf of private business. Didion called it “the subsidized monopolization” of the state.’

Perhaps too many people have been watching ‘Chinatown‘ and ‘There Will Be Blood,‘ but Menand’s piece highlights one potential writer’s turn from certain Western ideas to other Western ideas:  Multiculturalism, cultural relativism, a nod to ‘cultural hegemony,’ and the buy-in to European colonial oppression.

California, if you’ll pardon the crudeness, was always full of dreamers, nuts, fruits and more than a few flakes, but this has also allowed it to dream big.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’m reminded of a fundamental change I think happened during the Boomer generation, here represented by Tom Wolfe, referring to Californians in this piece by Michael Anton:

Noyce was like a great many bright young men and women from Dissenting Protestant families in the Middle West after the Second World War. They had been raised as Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, United Brethren, whatever. They had been led through the Church door and prodded toward religion, but it had never come alive for them. Sundays made their skulls feel like dried-out husks. So they slowly walked away from the church and silently, without so much as a growl of rebellion, congratulated themselves on their independence of mind and headed into another way of life. Only decades later, in most cases, would they discover how, absentmindedly, inexplicably, they had brought the old ways along for the journey nonetheless. It was as if . . . through some extraordinary mistake . . . they had been sewn into the linings of their coats!

I suppose we’ll see.

Victor Davis Hanson:

‘Soon, even the Stanford professor and the La Jolla administrator may learn that illegal immigration, cumbersome regulations, and the terrible elementary schools affect them as well.

The four-part solution for California is clear:  don’t raise the state’s crushing taxes any higher; reform public-employee compensation:  make use of ample natural resources: and stop the flow of illegal aliens. Just focus on those four areas-as California did so well in the past-and in time, the state will return to its bounty of a few decades ago.  Many of us intend to stay and see that it does.

————

How do I know what will happen?

A good post on Robinson Jeffers, which highlights how the rugged and vast beauty of California makes it easier to imagine what culture is, and what it ought to be on this outpost of Western Civilization.

Hearst Castle 4 by Bill Kuffrey

Hearst Castle 4 by Bill Kuffrey

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-A link for Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, public pensions and Schwarzenegger’s time in office.

Related On This Site:  Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’Victor Davis Hanson At The City Journal: ‘California, Here We Stay’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’ A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

The people who promise solutions to poverty and homelessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’