Madame, I Believe Your Brains May Have Fallen Out

After the Yale Silliman silliness and the Charles Murray Middlebury madness, a cruder skepticism might recommend writing many humanities/social sciences departments off altogether (hey, it’s Middlebury, after all).

Some departments are so open-minded, it seems, they’re allowing students to chant James Baldwin as though his spells will ward off the evil spirits of white-devilry (there’s still an air of the psycho-drama about all this).  Perhaps, just perhaps, a University isn’t the type of place where angry mobs should shout-down invited speakers, hunt them to the after-party, and beat them away into the night.

Mockery and laughter can work wonders in the face of true-belief and rigid ideology (that’s not funny!), but relatively fewer people have the wisdom, moral courage and humility to earn back the trust to educate, not indoctrinate.

Frankly, I’m not holding my breath as long as enough money and influence are at stake, and the stakes, as they say, are still pretty low.

At least now a broader swathe of the American public has gotten a look at the unhealthy radical group-think festering within, the kind which arrives when ideas and bad ideas, unchallenged, are allowed to rule the roost.  The consequences such ideas are having upon the pursuit of truth are damning.

Whose good is this serving?

Heterodox Academy might not be a bad start.


As previously posted:

As this blog has been arguing for over a decade, a lot of modern art is pretty good, but beyond the current political/ideological squabbles, there sure are a lot of poseurs making crap.

A Bleak, Modern House-Four Poems

The creep of vacuous ideas and lack of any apparent talent/technique is common, and it can be hard to tell where celebrity, marketing and branding bullshit ends, and ‘art’ begins:

-Ah, Look At All The Lonely People-‘Jeff Koons Is Back’ Via Vanity Fair

What is this lady doing?:

Some quotes for you, dear Reader:

From Dr. Steven Hicks:

‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.

I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.

So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while’

We’ll see about that…

Roger Scruton’s words struck me when I read them years ago:

“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.”

“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.

————

Apart from the rare genius, it seems the arts tend to ferment in groups and schools, made up of individuals with their own ideas, reacting to each other and events; reacting to their own developing talents and finding out through trial and error what works within some semblance of a tradition.

See: ‘Tradition And The Individual Talent’

Culture matters, in the sense that the value a civilization chooses to place in one activity over another can dramatically affect outcomes for that particular activity; a framework emphasizing and incentivizing the activity to live on in hearts and minds of individuals.

Perhaps Modern Art just needs to be put into broader contexts, given deeper roots which can nourish the talent already being born.

Some people are looking for ‘epistemologies:’

Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

No, I don’t need a movie explained to me in terms of ‘masculinity’ or feminist doctrine, any more than I need it to tell me to read Leviticus, or be a good Christian. I like good composition.

No, I don’t need a cartoon to reflect ‘solidarity’ around a particular political figure or set of political ideals, you fool!

Good art is usually beyond all that, and makes the viewer question/forget such things.

Why not just put a few algorithms to work in writing those artist statements?

See Also On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Stanley Fish also says keep politics out of academia: From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux…

Scruton again has deep insight, but will Christian religious idealism have to bump heads with Islamic religious idealism?: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Thanks to iri5

Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal

Q & A with Mark Lilla via The Chronicle of Higher Ed:

‘They’re too obsessed with identity. There’s a subtle distinction. Diversity as a social goal and aim of social reform is an excellent thing. But identity politics today isn’t about group belonging; it’s about personal identity.’

Taking a stand against identity politics at Columbia must take some courage, for cries of ‘Heretic!’ can be heard over rooftops maintained by the Office of the Physical Plant.

On that note, revisiting Martha Nussbaum on Judith Butler might be instructive.

For my part, someone called me a Postmodern Conservative the other day, and I’d just like to say that there are many identities juxtaposed at the intersectionality of bodies in space. Dominant narratives, meta-narratives, and counter-narratives serve to liber…

Merry Christmas!

In the drunk tank…!

Some previous links on this site for your intellectual (dis)pleasure:

-The Sokal hoax…Alan Sokal has apparently been busy ruminating since his paper, and Simon Blackburn, a Cambridge philosophy professor, reviews his ruminations.

-A quote from Leo Strauss’ Wikipedia page:  From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes:

“Strauss taught that liberalism in its modern form contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism, which in turn led to two types of nihilism. The first was a “brutal” nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Marxist regimes. In On Tyranny, he wrote that these ideologies, both descendants of Enlightenment thought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. The second type – the “gentle” nihilism expressed in Western liberal democracies – was a kind of value-free aimlessness and a hedonistic”permissive egalitarianism”, which he saw as permeating the fabric of contemporary American society.’

Deep in the German weeds…it’s all just nothing, man, and nothing needs to change:

Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities, via a lot of German philosophical idealism:

“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.”

Keep politics (and business) out of academia, when you can?-Repost-Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’

-Just read for its own sake, man, it doesn’t need an endpoint, because art’s pretty useful and useless: Why Should You Get A Liberal Education? From The ASAN Institute Via Vimeo: ‘Michael Oakeshott’s Cold War Liberalism 1’

-Tim Kavanaugh at Reason: Every Man A Derrida

From The City Journal: The Roar Of Justice-Philosopher Raymond Geuss, An Idealist In Realist’s Clothing

Full article here.

Well, the City Journal’s pretty far out on the right (sometimes a little nutty, resuscitating compassionate conservatism?), so you likely know where you’ll end before you begin.

What it seems Kirsch defends are forms of transcendentalism (i.e. Plato’s World Of Forms, or the possibility of knowledge beyond experience) against Raymond Geuss’s idealism, neo-Marxism and Leninism (as Kirsch has him: narrow-mindedly analyzing who has the power and the means of production).

From Plato’s Republic, Kirsch raises Plato’s extensive discussion with Thrasymachus:

“When one looks at justice clearly, Thrasymachus insists, he finds that it’s nothing but the disguise worn by power: “I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.”’

There are likely many who think like Thrasymachus among us.  In fact, we have all probably found ourselves thinking like this at times…

However, Kirsch implies that Geuss is not even as consistent as Thrasymachus:

“The unjust is lord over the truly simple and just: he is the stronger, and his subjects do what is for his interest, and minister to his happiness, which is very far from being their own,” Thrasymachus says…

It follows that the only logical course for any human being is to try to be happily unjust, rather than simple—that is, stupid—and just.'”

Join in the game, or be a useless crank or a coward?  Bottle it all inside like Thrasymachus and then when you see Socrates discussing the idea in public, unleash all of your anger at such an idealistic fool?  Or maybe like Geuss, you put it all in your philosophical idealism and encourage others to overthrow a common enemy?  Kirsch ends with:

“The world of Thrasymachus is a war of all against all, in which the powerful will always win. If Geuss does not want to inhabit such a world—and who does?—he should acknowledge that the inquiry into the nature of justice, which has occupied philosophers from Socrates to Rawls, is not an ideological trick, but the necessary beginning of all attempts to make the world more just.”

Not a bad point, though I’m already sympathetic to the theme.

————————————————————————————

Just A Thought-Of course “justice” is not merely a code for “social justice” and the neo-marxists, feminists and postmodern American left.  Obviously, it’s a central concept to the church.  The origin of many of our laws comes from the moral thinking of the church and the assumption of transcendance (it comes from God, and God is outside of us).  These laws, in turn, protect many of our freedoms.

Here is a quote from John Locke that could be quite relevant to someone like, say, Dr. Martin Luther King…who obviously thought about the nature of justice quite often:

For wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by hands appointed to administer Justice, it is still violence and injury, however colour’d with the Name, Pretences, or Forms of Law, the end whereof being to protect and redress the innocent, by an unbiassed application of it, to all who are under it; wherever that is not bona fide done, War is made upon the Sufferers, who having no appeal on Earth to right them, they are left to the only remedy in such Cases, an appeal to Heaven.”

See Also:  Just because the law comes from a belief in a transcendant God doesn’t necessarily follow that one can’t be moral, law-abiding, and Godless:  Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

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