Social Sciences

The Perilous State Of The University: Jonathan Haidt & Jordan B. Peterson

Jonathan Haidt (moral/social psychologist) and Jordan Peterson (clinical psychologist) discuss how they view what’s going on within our universities:

I’d like to think that there’s a reasonable conservative position which is agnostic, and respects the depths and dangers of religious experience, faith claims to knowledge, and the profound impact Christianity has had upon our legal and social institutions.

In essence, this blog believes such moral reasoning can provide a profoundly wise framework for understanding one’s own nature.  It can also help understand the problems which arise from our interactions with each other, with positions of authority, and with the world.  These depths can orient one towards what’s worth conserving (just as can a good humanities or social sciences education), despite being at odds with many other things of value.  Discovering what is true is a continuing job (and blessing) belonging to each of us, especially since the Enlightenment, but this apparently comes with the dangers of ideology, bad ideas, radical resentment, and totalitarian dead-ends still with us.

This agnostic position can, I believe, with some accuracy, view the depths and dangers of fundamentalist Leftism; how swiftly it can take over institutions, and how it appeals to many of the same old human nature problems with often pseudo-religious claims to knowledge.  Marxism, after all, is designed to take people up towards a promised endpoint to human history, and incite individuals into action towards ideals (revolutionary praxis-radical liberation) happy to trammel over the Sciences, the Social Sciences, the Humanities, and much truth besides.

See Also On This Site: The comments section of Theodore Dalrymple In The City Journal: Atheism’s Problems…Repost-Theodore Dalrymple: ‘What The New Atheists Don’t See’

From New York Magazine: If God Is Dead, Who Gets His House?

A Brief Defense Of Agnosticism

Did the ground shift some time ago?  Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On YouTube

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Related On This SiteFrom Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

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

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

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

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

Skepticism Regarding The Moralizing Impulses Of Modern Political & Social Movements-A Few Links

Richard Feynman Cargo Cult Science lecture here.

Feynman (wikipedia) wonders what makes science science.  He manages to argue quite well why he doesn’t think psychology meets a certain standard.

At least, he says the following:

‘I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas–he’s the controller–and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all theapparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but  they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.’

What is the bar as to when the social sciences become a science?

One place I find myself often retreating (knowledgeably, and sometimes not) is a place of skepticism when it comes to such fields gaining earthly authority and becoming conventional wisdom.

What if the latest research on a certain psychological disorder, early-educational practice, or thinking about certain mental-states and their treatment, because of this potential ambiguity, simply doesn’t hold up well over time and under greater scrutiny?

How much cost of error can be borne through political/legal channels?  Is there room for self-correction and protection of individual liberties regarding movements which are essentially moralizing and reformist in nature?

Few with money, reputation, political power and influence to bear those costs will do so readily, for that’s not how man’s nature is constituted, especially when asses are on the line.

Just observe any politician come election time.  Or your own behavior when you trip on a toy left on the stairs (you’ve probably resisted the urge to smash that toy at some point).  Rather, I’d prefer holding many idealists and social reformers/do-gooders of all stripes to account for outcomes, not intentions.

How about some healthy skepticism?

***This is to say nothing of the anti-science, ideological and radical base often driving political/social influence upon reformers and public sentiment.

Food for thought: Rarely do those upholding an ideal or principle in the public square stop to reflect upon the possibility that their burgeoning political movement might eventually devolve into a racket.  The injustice, and perceived injustice, is too great.  The urgency of now becomes overwhelming.  Thus, what is noble in true in a movement also contains that which is ignoble and untrue, for there are always the unbalanced and power-hungry seeking more influence as they are attracted to the movement.

If this movement doesn’t constrain the worst impulses, it can be relatively easy to predict where it may end-up.

On that note, a Theodore Dalrymple piece here.

Say it ain’t so:

‘Medical journals have thus gone over to political correctness—admittedly with the zeal of the late convert—comparatively recently. Such correctness, however, is now deeply entrenched. With The New England Journal of Medicine for July 16, 2016 in hand, I compared it with the first edition I came across in a pile of old editions in my slightly disordered study: that for September 13, 2007, as it happened, which is not a historical epoch ago. What started as mild has become strident and absurd.’

Another Dalrymple piece here:  Via A Reader-Theodore Dalrymple At LibertyLawSite.Org: ‘How Modern Psychology Undermines Freedom and Responsibility’

Dalrymple takes care to respond to many modern knowledge claims and ‘cult of the expert’ tendencies with literary wisdom, criticism, and skepticism.  Perhaps modern psychology, in trying to explain the world and soothe men’s souls, also pathologizes and medicalizes what are otherwise quite normal impulses and duties we human beings have in a pretty harsh world, with plenty of suffering.

See Also: Karl Popper’s metaphysical theory on much the same subject: Falsifiability

This, unlike the system highlighted in the below quote from the late Robert Conquest, steadfast chronicler of Soviet authority and leadership in practice:

But, he does point out certain dangers and makes me laugh at the same time:

“Those teach who can’t do” runs the dictum,

But for some even that’s out of reach:

They can’t even teach—so they’ve picked ’em

To teach other people to teach.

Then alas for the next generation,

For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.

Where psychology meets education

A terrible bullshit is born.’

As previously posted:

Ken Minogue framed it thusly:

‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’

All The Rage On Campus These Days

Jonathan Haidt continues to apply his work as a moral psychologist to the behaviors of true-believing campus activists:  ‘The Roots Of Campus Rage‘ (behind a pay wall)

One thing seems pretty certain: If you leave solutions to the the kinds of intense ideologues and true-believers currently being incentivized on many college campuses, you can be pretty sure what to expect.

This blog’s opinion:  There has been a serious failure of academic stewardship by some gatekeepers and educators along with the likely unsustainable growth of non-essential staff and administration (consultants, really).  This oft watered-down educational mission has led the college experience to become more transactional and consumeristic, thus opening it to further charges of consumerism by the usual ‘anti-capitalist’ suspects drawn to where the money and influence are (America, I don’t want to you lose the sensible egalitarian spirit that helped produce this slow-rolling mess and simply drift Europe-ward).

Charles Murray on his experience at Middlebury

The revolution probably won’t be televised:

‘Some were just having a snarky good time as college undergrads have been known to do, dancing in the aisle to the rhythm of the chants. But many looked like they had come straight out of casting for a film of brownshirt rallies. In some cases, I can only describe their eyes as crazed and their expressions as snarls. Melodramatic, I know. But that’s what they looked like.’

From a reader:  ‘The Rationalist Delusion In Moral Psychology:’

——–

Full piece here.

Larry Arnhart continued his careful reading of Haidt’s work, to which Haidt responded:

“As always, you have done a very close and fair reading of my work. And as before, you see things in my work that I was not fully aware of, but which I agree with. I think you’re right to call me on some potential contradictions. I am indeed a Darwinian, and I am indeed sympathetic to both classical liberalism and Burkean conservatism — more so than to modern leftism or 1970s liberalism. So I’ll have to think about this, and about the conundrums of tolerance and nested incompatible moral matrices that you raise. Thank you!”

An interesting discussion.  Comments are worth a read.


As previously posted:

Full piece here:

‘High schools and colleges that lack viewpoint diversity should make it their top priority. Race and gender diversity matter too, but if those goals are pursued in the ways that student activists are currently demanding, then political orthodoxy is likely to intensify.’

Especially in California, in private schools too, I’m guessing you will likely see a lot of what Haidt describes here as the air kids are used to breathing.

Often, should you point out such competing truths, many people appreciate the respectful discussion; a give and take.

But when you’ve upset the true-believers and their followers (people with money, jobs, political power, core-identity on the line), expect to be vilified and attacked.

For the long haul, it’s possible to be quietly ignored as anachronistic, on the ‘wrong side of history’, put in the libertarian/conservative/neo-conservative bin etc.

There, many sit on a dusty shelf in the bin, properly labeled.

Uncool.

Also, as previously posted:

Megan McArdle revisited Jonathan Haidt: ‘Liberals Can’t Admit To Thinking Like Conservatives

‘I’m an enormous fan of Jonathan Haidt’s work. Nonetheless, I’ve always had two outstanding questions about it (and would note that these are not exactly questions of which Professor Haidt is unaware).’

Check out Larry Arnhart, at Darwinian Conservatism:

Full piece here:

‘The most revealing comment from the Wall Street Journal interview is his praise for Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions, in which Sowell elaborates Friedrich Hayek’s distinction between the “constrained vision” of the British tradition and the “unconstrained vision” of the French tradition.  The constrained or realist vision of human nature is the vision of classical liberalism (Adam Smith) or traditionalist conservatism (Edmund Burke).  “Again, as a moral psychologist,” Haidt says, “I had to say the constrained vision is correct.”  The evolutionary support for the constrained vision is one of the major themes of my Darwinian Conservatism.’

and:

‘The imprecise terminology of liberalism, conservatism, and libertarianism is also confusing.  From my reading of Haidt’s book, he is implicitly embracing a liberal conservatism, or what people like Frank Meyer defended as a fusion of classical liberalism and traditionalist conservatism.  (Haidt mentions fusionism briefly in his paper on libertarianism.)  Crucial for this fusion is the distinction between state and society.  The end for a free state is liberty.  The end for a free society is virtue.  Political liberty provides the conditions for people to pursue virtue in civil society through the natural and voluntary associations of life.  Classical liberals or libertarians rightly emphasize political liberty.  Traditionalist conservatives rightly emphasize social virtue.  Political liberty provides the liberal tolerance by which people are free to pursue their moral visions within whatever moral community they join, as long as they do not violate the equal liberty of all others to live their moral lives as they choose.

‘This is, I think, implicit in Haidt’s book, but he never makes it explicit, because he never clearly makes the crucial distinction between state and society, political liberty and social virtue.’

Interesting reading.

Related On This Site: 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?’

From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

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

Morality in the emotions? Jesse Prinz argues that neuroscience and the cognitive sciences should move back toward British empiricism and David Hume…yet…with a defense of multiculturalism and Nietzsche thrown in:  Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”From Bloggingheads: Tamar Szabo Gendler On Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

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

Update & Repost-Louis Menand At The New Yorker: ‘Live And Learn: Why We Have College’

Full audio here. (around 5:00 min)

Is it just the humanities?  STEM seems to be doing ok, but how is our culture doing relative to others in a global marketplace?

Menand wondered in his then new book, why it often can take 9 years for a humanities PhD to get their doctorate.  He suggests part of the answer lies in the numbers:  fewer opportunities and fewer university programs since 1970.  Overtrained and underpaid.

Are we at the tail end of an age of exceptionalism…or egalitarianism…perhaps excessive egalitarianism?:

‘It wasn’t always like this. Before 1945, élite private colleges like Harvard and Yale were largely in the business of reproducing a privileged social class.’

and:

‘If there is a decline in motivation, it may mean that an exceptional phase in the history of American higher education is coming to an end. That phase began after the Second World War and lasted for fifty years. Large new populations kept entering the system. First, there were the veterans who attended on the G.I. Bill—2.2 million of them between 1944 and 1956. Then came the great expansion of the nineteen-sixties, when the baby boomers entered and enrollments doubled. Then came co-education, when virtually every all-male college, apart from the military academies, began accepting women. Finally, in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, there was a period of remarkable racial and ethnic diversification.’

Walter Russell Mead has some ideas.

As previously posted:

More here.

Link sent in by a reader.

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.

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.

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 ne0-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.

Related On This SiteFrom The New Criterion: ‘Higher Ed: An Obituary’,,,Ron Unz At The American Conservative: ‘The Myth Of American Meritocracy’

Analagous to old media? What to change and what to keepFrom The Arnoldian Project: ‘Architecture, Campus, And Learning To Become’

Should you get a college degree, probably, but you also probably shouldn’t lose sight of why you’re going and divorce yourself entirely from the cost:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism……Repost-Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be:  A lot like it is now?: A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Repost-Will Wilkinson At Forbes: ‘The Social Animal by David Brooks: A Scornful Review’

Full post here.

Wilkinson found the book lacking:

“The story of Harold and Erica does not really illustrate a new, coherent, science-based theory of human nature. It is a bowl hammered from Brooks’ philosophic predilections into which a jumbled stew of scientific anecdotes is poured.”

and:

“Brooks’ characters are constantly saying and thinking the sort of thing Brooks says and thinks in his opinion columns. They’re constantly made to express what are quite clearly elements of the author’s conception of human nature, sociality, and political life. But this stuff often has little or nothing to do with the “revolutionary” discoveries Brooks says he’s attempting to pull together into a coherent conception of human nature, sociality, and political life”

and:

“I suspect Brooks really does thinks thumos is an essential part of the best big-picture theory of human nature and the good society. But that’s an idea he took from the science-wary Allan Bloom and Harvey Mansfield, not Robert Trivers or David Buss or Geoffrey Miller.”

As before, perhaps it’s worth pointing out that the way in which Brooks goes about analyzing and understanding culture, our relationships to one another, our interior lives etc….is ostensibly through the lens of his understanding of the social sciences.  Perhaps he adds nothing new to the debate?

Charlie Rose has a full interview with Brooks and his new book.

A debate with Milton Friedman, a long time ago, and perhaps not so long ago:

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

Also On This Site:  Part of a larger move away from religion…toward social liberalism…libertarianism…liberaltarianism?:  Will Wilkinson And Jonah Goldberg On Bloggingheads: Updating Libertarianism?…A hip, more diverse conservatism?: RealClearPolitics reviews Grand New Party here….From Will Wilkinson-A Response To Kay Hymowitz: ‘The “Menaissance” and Its Dickscontents’

Harvey Mansfield At Defining Ideas: ‘Democracy Without Politics?’

Morals have roots in emotions…neuroscience toward Hume?:  Jesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

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

Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge

Steven Poole at Aeon: ‘We Are More Rational Than Those Who Nudge Us.’

‘And so there is less reason than many think to doubt humans’ ability to be reasonable. The dissenting critiques of the cognitive-bias literature argue that people are not, in fact, as individually irrational as the present cultural climate assumes. And proponents of debiasing argue that we can each become more rational with practice. But even if we each acted as irrationally as often as the most pessimistic picture implies, that would be no cause to flatten democratic deliberation into the weighted engineering of consumer choices, as nudge politics seeks to do’

You’ve got to learn how to see these things coming, and use your reason:

For some, I’m guessing behavioral economics has proved an alluring form of knowledge to favor existing political philosophies, formulate legal theories, and yes, to further Leftist and liberal political ideology (not all, of course, and not overtly).

After all, if previous economic models assume you, as an individual, behave rationally in making economic choices in your own self-interest and thus leave you alone in important ways, this is much less appealing than claiming that you behave sometimes irrationally in predictable ways, possibly on the level of cognitive science, and well what a wonderful opportunity for some people to step-in and make sense of this new knowledge for you and control your life.

Lately, whenever I see a scientific claim out in the media, however banal or possibly well or ill-founded, I keep in mind the bands of wandering post-Enlightenment ideologues who seek to attach their ideological, emotional and political commitments to the sciences.  Just as healthcare and education stir deep sympathies and present difficult moral, practical and institutional challenges for all of us, these fields tend to attract those who already have enough knowledge to run your life for you. or ‘just want to help’.

That’s often not really about the sciences.

And if such ideas are used to justify increasing intrusion into your life, it’s probably not really about being liberal, either.

—————

Related On This Site:  Sunstein’s got to create some space between the Bloomberg backlash and the totalitarians on the Left: Daddy’s Gonna Make You Do It

I’ve got enough friends, thanks: Repost-Cass Sunstein At The New Republic: ‘Why Paternalism Is Your Friend’

Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

New liberty away from Hobbes…toward Hayek…but can you see Locke from there?: Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

Leo Strauss argued there is great danger in this approach, i.e. the problems of Europe.  Political science, the social sciences, economics and the explanatory power of these products of reason and rationalism could increasingly form the epistemological foundation for explaining the world, people’s interior lives, how we ought to live and what we ought to do.  This includes where our rights come from and who should be in charge:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

From Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Does the Moral Flynn Effect Support Flynn’s Democratic Socialism or Murray’s Classical Liberalism?’

Full post here.

Readers may recall the James Flynn/Charles Murray debate about IQ a while back.  More on that Flynn Effect.

The nub of the argument as Arnhart sees it, in terms of political philosophy:

‘Here is the fundamental disagreement between Flynn’s socialism and Murray’s classical liberalism.  Flynn’s socialism assumes that human beings must be forced by governmental coercion to solve social problems.  Murray’s classical liberalism assumes that force is bad, and cooperation is good, and that if people are prohibited from using force, they will tend to cooperate voluntarily.’

Do you trust people to take care of themselves and others on their own? Which incentives and/or punishments do you create for those who can’t/don’t/won’t?  Do you trust people acting on behalf of government to be willing/able (by force of law) to administer your tax dollars to oversee institutions which presume to take care of others?

I suppose this partly depends upon your view of human nature, your responsibilities and moral obligations to others, and whether the products of Enlightenment Reason guiding the institutions of liberal democracy are enough to raise others up through those institutions and assist individuals in leading a more moral life…:

‘So, again, it’s a question of empirical evidence. When government is limited to deterring and punishing the initiation of force, to enforcing laws of contract and private property, and to providing those few public goods that cannot be provided by the market, will human beings cooperate voluntarily to solve their social problems, as Murray believes?  Or will human beings have to be forced by government bureaucracies to solve their problems, as Flynn believes?’

The libertarian/classically liberal vs. Left-liberal divide opens up again.

Here’s another take, the entirety of which can be found here. Thomas Sowell rejected Marxist economics and political philosophy in favor of classically liberal thought:

“[Thomas] Sowell’s argument is a relatively simple one:  “innate” mental abilities do not develop spontaneously but must undergo development, which is differentially fostered by different cultures, even when the abilities are general and abstract and do not consist of items of cultural knowledge.

“…Sowell’s approach splits the difference between “nature” and “nurture“…

Arnhart from the piece above on Steven Pinker who veered classically liberal in the The Better Angels Of Our Nature:

‘Pinker thinks this improvement in intelligence has brought improvement in morality, as manifested in our modern commitment to a liberal social order based on nonviolence, toleration, peaceful coexistence, and voluntary cooperation.’

Pinker’s empirical claim is that violence has gone down in the Western world as a result of these changes.

Briton John Gray argues against such a humanist vision (not necessarily the empirical claim), and argues that while science may proceed and real progress is taking place, in the realms of ethics and politics, things are learned but they don’t stay learned.

The religious and secular humanist missionary has a kind of faith in progress which doesn’t necessarily line-up with reality, according to Gray.

Mistah Kurtz-he dead‘ is a pretty dark vision.

Thomas Nagel reviewed Gray’s book ‘Silence Of Animals’ here.

Are we rational beings?  Rational animals?  What can the powers of reason do?:

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When it comes to political philosophy, in partial response to Gray’s claims to Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, Kelly Ross thought the moral claims need to be deeper (which I think is why Mill’s utilitarianism is often thrown out to ground environmental debates), otherwise you end-up with the activism of progressive politics, the majoritarianism and totalitarian impulses to control speech and thought in a quasi-religious way:

‘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. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals?  Much closer to our founding fathers?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’Race and IQ: Malcolm Gladwell On The Flynn Effect

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

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

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’

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

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

Two Tuesday Links-Roger Scruton & Thomas Sowell

Roger Scruton at Forbes: ‘Is Europe Still Defensible From Invasion?

Bankrolling European security with our military is probably not sustainable in its current form.  Many European interests naturally diverge from our own, and an intellectually lazy anti-Americanism can easily become political currency in the Eurozone.

***European interests naturally diverge wildly, and I have my doubts about the current Eurocratic political union being able to channel such political, ethnic, historical, cultural, and economic forces towards a common defense.  I suppose we’ll see.

Scruton:

‘The American people cannot go on defending a country like Germany – a country that enjoys a standard of living calculated to arouse envy in its impoverished Eastern neighbor, while self-righteously preaching ‘soft power’ and ‘non belligerence’ to its pampered people. At some point Americans are going to wake up to the fact that they are being unscrupulously exploited. Their armed forces are trained to fight and die in Europe, on behalf of people who would not dream of doing the same for America, and who are not prepared to die even for their homeland’

As always, at the end of the day, I think we’re on our own in this world, while alliances come and go.  In the wake of our withdrawal from the Middle-East and with Asia rising, as Americans, we’ve got our work cut-out for us.

Ukraine and Putin’s ethno-nationalist thuggery is just a reminder.

Did NATO go wrong as well?

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Thomas Sowell remembers Gary Becker.

‘Despite the contempt that some economists have expressed toward sociology, Gary Becker went from being a professor of economics at Columbia University to being a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago. No doubt sociology was improved by Becker’s contributions.’

I can imagine Becker made waves in the social sciences. As I’ve experienced with Charles Murray, social scientists who go against the grain often face a tough slog, especially introducing a rational model of behavior into the mix:

 

Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Link here. (Lecture available for a fee)

So are we drifting to a more “European” lifestyle in America?  Should we question…if not resist….such a trend?

“I have two points to make. First, I will argue that the European model is fundamentally flawed because, despite its material successes, it is not suited to the way that human beings flourish–it does not conduce to Aristotelian happiness. Second, I will argue that twenty-first-century science will prove me right.”

Murray is quite libertarian, and he outlines what he dislikes about the European model on a recent visit to Sweeden:

“In every town was a beautiful Lutheran church, freshly painted, on meticulously tended grounds, all subsidized by the Swedish government. And the churches are empty. Including on Sundays. Scandinavia and Western Europe pride themselves on their “child-friendly” policies, providing generous child allowances, free day-care centers, and long maternity leaves. Those same countries have fertility rates far below replacement and plunging marriage rates. Those same countries are ones in which jobs are most carefully protected by government regulation and mandated benefits are most lavish. And they, with only a few exceptions, are countries where work is most often seen as a necessary evil, least often seen as a vocation, and where the proportions of people who say they love their jobs are the lowest.”

As Murray suggests, the prevailing European secular habit of mind (which shuns overt religious faith) has also transposed a lot of Christian metaphysics (and a lot Marxist/Communist leftist thought) into the modern European state.  Many religious values continue of course, but are also, in part, maintained by that state.  That state, in turn, can limit much dynamism and freedom we take for granted here in the U.S.:

“The problem is this: Every time the government takes some of the trouble out of performing the functions of family, community, vocation, and faith, it also strips those institutions of some of their vitality–it drains some of the life from them.”

This isn’t a bad point to make.  I would also agree with Murray that many many people busy importing such influences to America know not what they do (especially prescient right now, during the economic crisis).  I suppose he’s also implying that despite our depth of religious idealism, our constitution is able to handle it in its pursuit of the negative ideals of life, liberty and happiness.

He also suggests that Europe can’t keep this old model going:

“The European model can’t continue to work much longer. Europe’s catastrophically low birth rates and soaring immigration from cultures with alien values will see to that.”

I suppose we’ll see.

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Is Murray’s point really is to wrest happiness from the standard models of social science and current social trends that point Europeward, progressive and liberal?:

“The drift toward the European model can be slowed by piecemeal victories on specific items of legislation, but only slowed. It is going to be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional, and why it is so important that America remain exceptional. That requires once again seeing the American project for what it is: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth, and immeasurably precious.”

Something to think about.

See Also:  Murray has more here in the Washington Post.  He argues that there is a deeper philosophical, but mostly, scientific influence that will change the social sciences in the next 50 years or so, and thus, public policy.

Also On This Site:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Don’t get Borked, at least if you’re openly religious and aiming for higher office:  Bork had his own view of the 1960′s: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.  He has a big vision with some holes in it, but it’s one that embraces change boldly.

Once you take apart the old structure, you have to criticize the meritocracy you’ve helped create: David Brooks At The NY Times: ‘Why Our Elites Stink’

Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on ConservatismCharles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’