A ‘Postmodern Conservative’ View?-Some Links

Via David Thompson’s Greatest Hits: ‘A discussion on the state of the left with Ophelia Benson, editor of the rationalist website Butterflies & Wheels and co-author of Why Truth Matters.’

‘Our criticism of [Judith] Butler was quite independent of the merits or lack thereof of Derrida – but perhaps a criticism of his defender amounts to a criticism of him and is therefore not allowed. At any rate, Butler’s open letter to the Times is a classic example of precisely this evasive non-substantive suggestion of impropriety that you mention. It’s basically an argument from celebrity. ‘How dare you publish such a snide obituary, Derrida was hugely influential, he was celebrated, he was a big deal.’

Hmmm….Martha Nussbaum on Judith Butler: ‘The Professor Of Parody

‘These developments owe much to the recent prominence of French postmodernist thought. Many young feminists, whatever their concrete affiliations with this or that French thinker, have been influenced by the extremely French idea that the intellectual does politics by speaking seditiously, and that this is a significant type of political action. Many have also derived from the writings of Michel Foucault (rightly or wrongly) the fatalistic idea that we are prisoners of an all-enveloping structure of power, and that real-life reform movements usually end up serving power in new and insidious ways. Such feminists therefore find comfort in the idea that the subversive use of words is still available to feminist intellectuals. Deprived of the hope of larger or more lasting changes, we can still perform our resistance by the reworking of verbal categories, and thus, at the margins, of the selves who are constituted by them.’

Strolling along, Avital Ronell, professor of German and Comparative Literature at NYU, invites you for a walk in the park, for whom 10 minutes of profound explication can never be enough:

I’m guessing that in the past, and maybe still in the present, some Nimrods find both the Catholic Church and/or the Priesthood of Impenetrable Jargon attractive life options.

‘In September 2017, New York University launched a Title IX investigation into Avital Ronell, an internationally acclaimed professor who had been accused of sexual harassment by her former graduate student, Nimrod Reitman.’

Roger Scruton suggests that the co-opting of university philosophy and literature departments by similar postmodern schools of thought (post-ish Marxist) does a disservice to young people interested in both philosophy and literature:

On that note, it doesn’t matter so much if ideas are true, or falsifiable, but rather if they can be held with conviction, made into policy, and acted upon in the world.  People are going to do politics, whether you like it or not.  It’s a basic human activity.

I’d argue that the decline of religion along with the intellectual currents in many academies have conspired to produce enough space for the following in our politics:  Morally righteous people interested in how you should live your life. People who are deeply anti-religious and narrowly ideological:

Moving along still, Sam Harris and Ezra Klein (editor of Vox) debate Charles Murray’s work, which goes to a central critique of progressive doctrines which conflate moral and political reasoning: How to live and what to do become intimately united with immediate political action and coalition-building (forgetting, or perhaps never understanding, what politics can actually do and at what costs).

My take: There’s an inherent belief that political activism is ‘scientific.’ This belief is strong enough that when decent and conflicting social science comes along, it becomes morally suspect and a threat to money, politics and identity (the royal road to utopia):

It’s actually less important whether or not you agree politically with Charles Murray, but rather whether or not you’ve understood what he’s saying.  It used to be, at least, that if you couldn’t understand what someone was saying, you still didn’t prevent his saying it in public.

Both Sam Harris and John Derbyshire (of differing political views) seem to understand quite well the crux of Murray’s reasoning:

Notice the people trying to shut Murray down are not reading his book, nor really interested in what he’s saying.

Not a good sign:

Reason Interviews Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt

Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine interviews Professor Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff on their new book: The Coddling Of The American Mind:  How Good Intentions & Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure

According to the interview, the book expands on their popular 2015 article at The Atlantic, which proposed that certain curently popular ideas actually work to make people more anxious and depressed, against psychological research.

They also take on the idea of identity politics in a way you might not expect (defending a broader humanism and Civil Rights activism).  This, against what they see as a more ‘us vs. them’ tribalism helping to make much more of U.S. civic and campus life political, chaotic, and potentially violent.

This blog’s take: When you abandon personal responsibility in favor of collectivist action through violence and non-violence, towards justice (still blind) and ‘social justice,’ you should probably also look around and surmise that how people are behaving now is likely how they’ll behave in the future.

For every reasonable person you imagine acting unreasonably because of deep and genuine injustice, requiring a channel for that injustice, you might also imagine at least one or more very unreasonable people ready to tear everything down, including you.

The Leftward drift towards certain ideals, ideologies and radical movements within academia is having, for this blog, rather predictable results: Many students and professors are becoming committed professionally, morally and emotionally towards a set of propositions and principles about the world.  This environment becomes the water in which many swim much of the time, human ignorance and human nature being what they are.

Related On This Site:

Merely pointing out research and having contrary suggestions about it can make one a heretic: The Intellectual Cowardice Of The Crowd-Charles Murray At Middlebury College

Actual, civil debates regarding disagreement about means and ends are possible:Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss

Repost-From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

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’

Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Also, just another reminder of a much better standard and moral guidepost:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

A Few Ways Of Looking At Atlantic City

It can be the right kind of fun, but the steep drop from glittery artifice to gritty despair in Atlantic City is enough to make even the most contented reflect a little.

Across the street lies the baffling gaze of a woman, gripping the edge of her lawn-chair and cigarette at the same time.  Her peeled, faded porch displays a ‘For Rent’ sign.

Tourist towns, for me, have an air of the superficial and sad, despite the amenities and excitement they promise.  There always seems to be a lack of the local, as the locals must cater to tourists, coming and going.  What Atlantic City had going for it was trying to be the East Coast’s premier destination for gambling.  It’s since been mostly in decline from that holy peak.

Perhaps, in my early twenties (the last time I was there), I was looking for something like bittersweet confirmation of my oh-so-earnest impressions of how-the-world-really-is.  It was done with more than a little melancholic self-regard (apparently I haven’t changed that much).

Yeah, I can handle it.  I only lost $200 and we got to see Jon Bon Jovi playing craps as a crowd gathered (leather-jacket, surprisingly big head).

Glitzy:

No, dear reader, I haven’t suddenly joined the barely organized, deeply personal hatred of a man who thwarts political activism and idealism in crude, populist fashion.

I can’t really say I support him all that much either (although I think a lot of the right people are pissed-off).

For the sake of our Republic, I hope Trump’s a decent steward, because I suspect the forces driving deep institutional dysfunction and mistrust are probably still growing, and maintaining our freedoms will be difficult.  It could get quite a bit worse before anything gets better (maybe pretty bad, I’m afraid).

Sorry to not just focus on serious questions and policy, and to blather and link on a blog, but I’ve got a life and a job.  Writing for money seems…compromising, and my writing isn’t all that great, and my insights are nearly always second-hand, anyways.

I’m thankful when a few dozen people read what I’ve bothered to think and write down.

Really, thank you:

From ‘Atlantic City Waiter’ by Countee Cullen

Just one stanza might do, to show there are many eyes you see, that may also see you:

‘For him to be humble who is proud
Needs colder artifice;
Though half his pride is disavowed,
In vain the sacrifice.’

As previously posted, and probably relevant enough to post here: Bowling Alone and Charles Murray:

———————-

***A reader passed along this bit of news: ‘Black Trump supporter beats white anti-Trump protester…’

A new kind of populism?

Charles Murray argues that controlling the data for just for whites in America, a gap has opened up between working-class ‘Fishtown’ and professional-class ‘Belmont.’ Fishtowners have increasing rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, more isolation from churches, civic organizations and the kinds of voluntary associations that Murray suggests can make a life more fulfilling, regardless of income beyond certain basic needs. Fishtowners have higher incidences of drug and alcohol use and intermittent work.

Belmonters, on the other hand, are mostly college-educated and beyond, still tend to court, marry, engage in family planning and tend to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Folks in Belmont are still living more moderate personal lives and working to stay ahead in the changing economy through academia, the professions, government, tech, business and global business.

Being a social scientist with a more limited government/small ‘c’ conservative/libertarian worldview, Murray likely sees a smaller role for government and limited ways in which some people acting through government can actually solve problems in other people’s lives. As a contrarian social scientist in a small minority, then, he disagrees with many basic assumptions often found amongst a majority of social scientists.

Murray thus advocates for people in ‘Belmont’ to increasingly preach what they practice, to look outside the bubble of their daily lives and wealthier enclaves, and perhaps reconstitute the kinds of family and civic associations, moral virtues and opportunities for independence and success he’d like to see more broadly.

What this would look like in practice, exactly, is unclear.

=======================

Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone‘, seems to agree with Murray about what much of what the data highlights: Working-class whites are behaving more like working-class non-whites, and college-educated non-whites are behaving more like college-educated whites.

Putnam also focuses more on economic factors, the decline of manufacturing and the disappearance of working-class jobs that has without question affected large parts of America and small-town life. Globalization has opened American firms to global competition, global capital markets and mobile labor. Whatever your thoughts on race, Putnam creates some daylight between the data and strictly race based interpretations (often aligned with ideology, especially in academia nowadays) and focuses more on ‘class’ in a way slightly differently than does Murray.

An interesting discussion, in which the empirical research of social science can highlight important differences in political philosophy and try and transcend the inevitable political and ideological battles of the day.

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.

Update & Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Full piece here.

Sandall reviews Robin Fox’s book “Tribal Imagination: Civilization And the Savage Mind”.

‘New political understandings are being launched each day, it seems. From one quarter comes what we might call Praetorian Realism, an acknowledgment of Samuel Huntington’s scenario for the military disciplining of civil chaos in modernizing lands. From another comes Matrix Realism, emphasizing the army’s role in the institutional order of the Arab countries. In this expansive intellectual climate, with its growing range of options, perhaps there’s room for one more entrant. Let’s call it Tribal Realism, the aim being to bring anthropological insights to bear on our political prospects abroad.’

So, where do the social-sciences and foreign-policy fruitfully meet? Sandall argues Fox’s then new book can point out quite how we often misunderstand other parts of the world as we project our own traditions, definitions of freedom, and democratic ideals upon it:

‘Fox knows what Tierney and most other educated Americans apparently do not: that tribal communities are the default system of human social nature. Humanity evolved that way for millennia after exiting the hunter-gatherer band stage of social life. Many of the planet’s diverse societies have since moved on toward becoming modern states, but not all of them have. And even for those that have, the shadowy emotional residues of the distant past remain.’

Fox puts his thinking into a framework of evolutionary theory (as opposed to, say, religious doctrines).

‘Fox sees the European habit of viewing society as a loose aggregate of autonomous individuals as a barrier to understanding. It prevents us from seeing the truth of Ernest Gellner’s argument in Muslim Society that, under Islam, “the individual acts toward the state essentially through the mediation of his kin group.” It equally prevents us from seeing that in ancient Greece (meaning the Greece of legend that long preceded the reforms of Cleisthenes and the rationalistic speculations of Plato and Aristotle), both autonomous individuals and the state itself were problematic.’

Food for thought, as I always think it’s important to point out that secular post-Enlightenment ideals can suffer many of the same problems as religion when sailing into contact, conflict and engagement with other parts of the world, as that world can be a dangerous place.

I like how Kenneth Minogue came at the problem of Western civilization vs what he argued exists in much of the rest of the world:  ‘One-right order’ societies, or civilizations much more hierarchical and limited in individual freedoms and economic opportunities to which those in the West are accustomed.

Minogue also highlights what he sees as important differences between libertarians and conservatives during his critique of political idealism in the video below. On this site, see: Where The Libertarian And Conservative Often Part Ways-Arnold Kling On Ken Minogue’s ‘The Servile Mind’

Related On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily (R.I.P) says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’.

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Francis Fukuyama uses some Hegel and Samuel Huntington…just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

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

Full piece here.

‘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.’

Again, and again:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

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’

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