Repost: Theodore Dalrymple At The New English Review-‘Houllebecq And Call’

Theodore Dalrymple on Michel Houellebecq here:

‘Hou[e]llebecq has been accused of being a nihilist and cynic, but far from that, his work is an extended protest against nihilism and cynicism. It is true that he offers no solution to the problem, but it is not the purpose of novels, but rather of tracts, to offer solutions to such problems. For him to tell his readers to take up basket-weaving or some such as the answer to existential emptiness would in fact be an instance of that very existential emptiness.’

Here’s a brief Houellebecq interview on Tocqueville (I too was bored when I first read Tocqueville, but I hadn’t realized how deep and accurate so many of his observations were):

As previously posted:

Interview sent in by a reader with Houellebecq on his ‘Soumission,’ which, in his fictional world, imagined a soon-to-be Muslim candidate defeating a French nationalist candidate, followed by an ultimate submission of French society to Islamic law and political leadership.

Interesting discussion at the link (including a deflation of (R)acism as critical theory).

‘But now you’re asking words to mean something they don’t. Racism is simply when you don’t like somebody because he belongs to another race, because he hasn’t got the same color skin that you do, or the same features, et cetera. You can’t stretch the word to give it some higher meaning.’

On some of Houellebecq’s thinking behind the creative work:

‘Yes. It has to happen sometime and it might as well be now. In this sense, too, I am a Comtean. We are in what he calls the metaphysical stage, which began in the Middle Ages and whose whole point was to destroy the phase that preceded it. In itself, it can produce nothing, just emptiness and unhappiness. So yes, I am hostile to Enlightenment philosophy, I need to make that perfectly clear. ‘

Whoa, at least he’s relatively up front about that.

Isn’t it possible to reject Houellebecq’s modernity-is-dead worldview AND also put the universal claims of progressive, collectivist, ideological, postmodern, multicultural feminist discontents into their proper perspective? Perhaps without suggesting the end of the modern world and some presumed next stage to be reached?

And as for discussions of art: Is the book worth a read?

From the comments:

‘Those of you regarding e.g. feminism as somehow an antidote to the patriarchal impulses in enlightenment thinking or Islam, or in broader terms postmodern political and social movements as offering a ‘third way’, something totally new and immune from this dynamic of competitive decay and decline, forget the fact that these movements are themselves the most recent outgrowths of the emancipative instinct, one of the core features deeply rooted in Western thought ever since the renaissance, as Barzun described. As an Asian living in the West myself, I have to tell you that this instinct is simply not present as a core element in other civilisations, and is indeed distinctive about the West. That Japan and Korea, and for that matter every non-western nation, modernised without a countercultural ‘values’ rebellion is indicative in this regard. The west is going to be without allies as it goes with a whimper.

Under such a depressing worldview, hope is provided for by religion and mysticism, a return to medievalism. It is sad, because the West will truly die as it numbs its own most deeply embedded instincts in the process of conversion, but the mysticism is a form of hope for the masses, who never particularly cared for high ideals anyway.

Houellebecq seems to channel Spengler, who hardly anybody reads nowadays. But that such an interesting thinker is hardly glanced at today is an indictment of us, not of him.’

Also, from the comments. Hubristic, but there’s something to deflated nihilism:

‘This is why I love French writers and thinkers. Fascinating to read even if they are always wrong.’

As much as I’m hoping for a break-up of Islamist ideology, I suppose I’m hoping for some light into these dark, post-Enlightenment corners as well. Something other than the existential void and the ideas and ideologies which so often rush in.

I have to give Hollebecq credit, too, for as he points out, the major religions have been dealing with questions of purpose, suffering, telos, why, what, when, and the stuff human nature for a lot longer time.

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Roger Sandall, Australian critic of romantic primitivism and the Western’s Left’s penchant for the Noble Savage: His home page where his essays can be found. Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues

Robert Hughes, Australian and often fierce critic of modernism and post-modernism.

***I should add that Werner Herzog’s ‘Into The Abyss‘ was worth my time. Herzog is probably not a proponent of the death penalty, but I thought he left me to decide what I thought, and he didn’t flinch from the crime, the tragedy and the loss.

Related On This Site: From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

 

This Has Always Been An Experiment-Some Links To Ideas Affecting ‘Elites’ Within Institutions: Charles Murray, Tyler Cowen & Theodore Dalrymple On Psychology & Moral Judgment

Tyler Cowen takes a look at Charles Murray’s new book: ‘Human Diversity: Gender, Race, Class & Genes.’

Cowen:

‘Overall this is a serious and well-written book that presents a great deal of scientific evidence very effectively. Anyone reading it will learn a lot. But it didn’t change my mind on much, least of all the most controversial questions in this area. If anything, in the Bayesian sense it probably nudged me away from geneticist-based arguments, simply because it did not push me any further towards them.’

As to being able to discuss these ideas, I think most ‘men on the street’ are predisposed to looking at such research as supporting their previously held ideas and experiences (racist, anti-racist, non-racist etc).

What worries me more at the moment: On the Sam Harris/Ezra Klein debate (Klein either can’t get out of, or wishes not to engage on the level of Murray’s work; his logic displaying a lack of censure for the kind of violence which followed Murray to Middlebury):

From Mike Nayna’s Youtube channel: Radical students and some of their thought-leading administrators have a talk at Middlebury.

Surely you don’t trust some of these morons with your ability to think freely?

A potentially interesting thought:  Let’s all take a moment to recall Jeffrey Dahmer, shall we?

What if through the social sciences and American institutional innovation (IQ tests for the military, academic placement testing), there dripped-down a battery of tests given to all American schoolchildren.  After an hour or two taken out of a child’s day, a thick envelope would arrive at home a few weeks later; to be examined or unexamined by the parents and/or child:

While possessing above-average intellience, JEFFREY scored high for violent imagery and/or ideation.  JEFFREY might display a predilection to become fixated on objects, animals and/or other living things in his attempts to understand and navigate the world.  Providing positive and rewarding outlets for JEFFREY will likely enhance learning opportunities and the chance to develop fruitful interpersonal relationships.

Oh, there are a few more out there…

Repost: The Intellectual Cowardice Of The Crowd-Charles Murray At Middlebury College

Charles Murray At The American: Are Too Many People Going To College?

As posted, someone’s going to be running our institutions and making rules out of a presumed universal and common sense set of assumptions:

Martin Gurri via Marginal Revolution:  ‘Notes From A Nameless Conference:’

Gurri offered an interesting take on matters socio-cultural:

The dilemma is that this present is defined by a radical distrust of the institutions of industrial society, and of the elites that control them, and of their statements and descriptions of reality. The conference organizers got our predicament right. At every level of contemporary social and political life, we are stuck in the muck of a profound crisis of authority.

Hmmm…:

‘The senior people, largely white and male, seemed to believe that, in punishment for the sins of their fathers, trust had fractured along identity lines.  Women today were thought to trust only women, for example.  Muslims trusted Muslims, and no one else.  Some archetypical essence of “woman” or “Muslim” made internal communications possible, and separated each group from the rest of the human race.  It was, to be sure, a disaster of biblical proportions – the story of Babel told in the times of the tweet – and it left the men in charge desperate to put forward individuals of a different sex and skin coloration, to say the things they wanted to hear.

For younger elites, trust involves a sort of cosplay of historical conflicts.  They put on elaborate rhetorical superhero costumes, and fight mock-epic battles with Nazis, fascists, “patriarchs,” slave-owners, George III, and the like.  Because it’s only a game, no one gets seriously hurt – but nothing ever gets settled, either.  Eventually, the young cosplayers must put away their costumes, take one last sip of Kombucha, and set off, seething with repressed virtue, to make money in the world as it really is.’

Roger Sandall from ‘Guardianship: The Utopia Of The New Class‘ finishes with:

One remembers Weber’s epitaph for the Protestant Ethic, as he contemplated a devitalised bourgeoisie spiritlessly tending the petrified mechanism their ancestors had raised. Adapted, without apology, it might also be used to depict that petrified Utopia of the New Ruling classes of the East.

Weber:

‘Rulers without honour, administrators without heart, priests without conviction, this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilisation never before achieved.’

Just thought I’d Throw This In There:

An interesting take from Slate Star Codex-‘The APA Meeting: A Photo-Essay:’

There’s a popular narrative that drug companies have stolen the soul of psychiatry. That they’ve reduced everything to chemical imbalances. The people who talk about this usually go on to argue that the true causes of mental illness are capitalism and racism. Have doctors forgotten that the real solution isn’t a pill, but structural change that challenges the systems of exploitation and domination that create suffering in the first place?

No. Nobody has forgotten that. Because the third thing you notice at the American Psychiatric Association meeting is that everyone is very, very woke.

This reminds me of a poem by Robert Pinsky, entitled ‘Essay On Psychiatrists’

V. Physical Comparison With Professors And Others

Pink and a bit soft-bodied, with a somewhat jazzy
Middle-class bathing suit and sandy sideburns, to me
He looked from the back like one more professor.

And from the front, too—the boyish, unformed carriage
Which foreigners always note in American men, combined
As in a professor with that liberal, quizzical,

Articulate gaze so unlike the more focused, more
Tolerant expression worn by a man of action (surgeon,
Salesman, athlete). On closer inspection was there,

Perhaps, a self-satisfied benign air, a too studied
Gentleness toward the child whose hand he held loosely?
Absurd to speculate; but then—the woman saw something

Maintaining a healthy skepticism:

Previous ‘elite’ links on this site, arriving at some yet predictable, unrealized truths:  Via Marginal Revolution via American Affairs: ‘The Western Elite From A Chinese Perspective:’

Kenneth Anderson At Volokh: ‘The Fragmenting of the New Class Elites, Or, Downward Mobility

Two Kinds Of Elite Cities in America?

There are people with careers writing about elites, becoming somewhat elite themselves, which haven’t fared too well

Repost-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal-The Persistence Of Ideology

Interesting read.

Francis Fukuyama and his influential essay are mentioned, as well as Immanuel Kant, Marx, and Isaiah Berlin.

Ideas matter, obviously, and the piece attempts to re-contextualize many ideological struggles which keep shaping our day-to-day lives (I have it on good intel that the guys down at the docks say ‘quotidian struggles’).

Dalrymple:

‘Who, then, are ideologists? They are people needy of purpose in life, not in a mundane sense (earning enough to eat or to pay the mortgage, for example) but in the sense of transcendence of the personal, of reassurance that there is something more to existence than existence itself. The desire for transcendence does not occur to many people struggling for a livelihood. Avoiding material failure gives quite sufficient meaning to their lives. By contrast, ideologists have few fears about finding their daily bread. Their difficulty with life is less concrete. Their security gives them the leisure, their education the need, and no doubt their temperament the inclination, to find something above and beyond the flux of daily life.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site:

-Fukuyama’s Marxist/Hegelian influence and the re-purposed Christian metaphysics and Statism found within much German Idealism:  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

-Are we really progressing…can we be more clear about means and ends? Via Youtube-Samuel Huntington On ‘The Clash Of Civilizations’Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Sunday Quotation: From Jonathan Bennett On Kant…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper By George Walsh: The Objectivist Attack On Kant…From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant

-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”

***Why so many Britons on this site? (J.S. Mill, Isaiah Berlin by way of Riga, Michael Oakeshott, Roger Scruton, Bryan Magee, Theodore Dalrymple, John Gray etc.?)

I don’t know all the reasons, but there’s definitely an Anglophilia at work, our division by a common language, and perhaps an overall ideological predilection towards an Anglo-sphere alliance.  I think there is mutual benefit, security and leverage to be had in working for a more closely united English-speaking ‘liberal’ world order.   There are many sacrifices and risks, dangers and blind-spots, too.

Many of these writers/thinkers have had to face a more institutional and entrenched Left.  They can know intimately whereof they speak.

It’s easy to feel vaguely good about our relationship, but let’s not forget moments like these:

washingtonburns.jpg

This is a depiction (thanks to impiousdigest.com) of British troops burning the White House.

Some Paintings, Grievance, and Rationalizing Technocracy

-Via Mick Hartley, photographer Nicolas Lepiller takes photographs of New York City at night.

-Also via Mick Hartley, via The Atlantic, a brief Jeff Koons mention.

-Theodore Dalrymple writes about the paintings of Joshua Reynolds and Marlene Dumas.

-Let’s not forget what some Americans are choosing to sacrifice for the rest of us.

-Via an interview with Ken Minogue from 2006:

‘BC: What do you make of political correctness? There are those who would argue it’s a thing of the past. Frankly, I don’t see how that’s possible. It seems to me that cultural Marxism is more regnant than ever, would you agree?

KM: In my time, a great deal of what used to be intuitive and instinctive (such as good manners) has been replaced by the rule-bound and rationalised. Political correctness is a politicised version of good manners offering power to the kind of meddlesome people who want to tell others how to behave. As to Marxism, it was merely one more illusion that purported to be the key to life. It is significant in that it reveals one of the dominant passions still at work in our civilisation – the passion to create happiness by technology in the hands of a supposedly enlightened elite.’

From Mike Nayna’s Youtube channel: Radical students and some of their thought-leading administrators have a talk at Middlebury:

Kinda still reminds me of The Wave:

Already, many discussions of depth and note are occurring away from the mainstream.  Some ground is shifting, and has already shifted:

Repost: Anthony Daniels At The New Criterion-Medical Correctness

Full piece here.

A.k.a. Theodore Dalrymple.

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.’

That’s unfortunate.

As found on the Youtubes, a Dalrymple piece read with a Scottish accent:

Another of my very favourite TD essays, this one compares two 19th Century thinkers – Karl Marx and Ivan Turgenev. I believe that the observations, the wisdom, and the thorough takedown of Marx as a human being, are of great value.

~30 minutes. I think that bit about the dog actually made me tear-up.

Ah, the humanity:

Repost-Theodore Dalrymple And Roger Scruton-Don’t Judge Me

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

Journey To The Center Of The Navel

This Wendell Berry quote, from on “tolerance and multiculturalism,” from his essay “The Joy of Sales Resistance”, has stayed with me:

‘Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.’

Please do keep in mind Wendell Berry is NOT going to buy a computer.

My discount predictions (buy 2 get 1 FREE): Radical campus politics will continue to settle into newsroom malaise and an increasingly fevered search for meaning, identity and the Self in the culture-at-large.  Folks already committed to particular doctrines will continue seeking solidarity with other Selves through identity collectivism and group-belonging while making [elements of] politics, the humanities and the social sciences something like an exclusionary religion (the pathway to a better world).

Down below the radicals and up-top some high minded idealists, free-thinkers and all manner of others in-between, a bit like folks in a church, which is why there might be so much hatred and potential overlap with religious belief (to say nothing of the relentless focus on authoritarian/totalitarian impulses).

I’m pretty sure publicly taking the mildest ‘bourgeois’ stance on marriage, kids, work etc. will continue to make one an enemy, political and otherwise, to those gathered around such nodes.

The Boston Evening Transcript

The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript
Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.


When evening quickens faintly in the street,
Wakening the appetites of life in some
And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,
I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning
Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,
If the street were time and he at the end of the street,
And I say, “Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript.”

T.S. Eliot

The best kinds of clubs tend to be those whose members aren’t even sure they’re in a club.

The most interesting kinds of people can be free-thinkers, maintaining their humility, kindling a flame of quiet moral courage when called-upon.

Some of these people are quite traditional, others, not so much.

Theodore Dalrymple on Banksy:

‘The enormous interest his work arouses, disproportionate to its artistic merit, shows not that there is fashion in art, but that an adolescent sensibility is firmly entrenched in our culture. The New York Times reports that a lawyer, Ilyssa Fuchs, rushed from her desk the moment she heard about Banksy’s latest work and ran more than half a mile to see it. Would she have done so if a delicate fresco by Peiro della Francesca had been discovered in Grand Central Terminal? In the modern world, art and celebrity are one. And we are all Peter Pan now: We don’t want to grow up.’

Well, I certainly hadn’t noticed an adolescent sensibility at the NY Times. Certainly not.

An image of one of those Peiro della Francesca frescoes here.

Perhaps it’s worthwhile to view Banksy as a kind of poor man’s Damien Hirst: A ‘working-class’ British guy with some native talent but not too much in the way of formal training nor arguably lasting artistic achievement (perhaps in the ‘graffiti’ world). Instead of working as a gallery, mixed-media modern installation artist like Hirst, he’s followed the street-graffiti path leaving ‘transgressive’ messages on politics and ethics scrawled across the cityscape in anonymity. For all his irony, and the fact that he’s likely in on the joke, Banksy still finds himself subject to the larger forces at work where art, money, & fame are meeting.

As a girl in Seattle here mentioned to me at a party: ‘His work is a meta-commentary on art, commerce, greed, creativity and all that. His becoming a commodity is the ultimate irony.’

Deep, man, deep.

Yet, as to Dalrymple’s point, I could imagine an adult sneaking off to check out a Michaelangelo fresco with childlike anticipation, and maybe even a little childish or adolescent delight at being the first to arrive. Of course, I think that fresco tends to engender a much deeper and complex response than that of Banksy’s work and ‘social commentary’, but the desire for beauty, hope, and brief bursts of transcendence aren’t going anywhere. This reminds me of Richard Wilbur’s poem: ‘First Snow In Alsace.‘ which evokes the grim realities of war and suffering covered up by a beautiful snowfall.

Here are the last stanzas and line:

…You think: beyond the town a mile
Or two, this snowfall fills the eyes
Of soldiers dead a little while.

Persons and persons in disguise,
Walking the new air white and fine,
Trade glances quick with shared surprise.

At children’s windows, heaped, benign,
As always, winter shines the most,
And frost makes marvelous designs.

The night guard coming from his post,
Ten first-snows back in thought, walks slow
And warms him with a boyish boast:

He was the first to see the snow.

The worst war can bring is juxtaposed against our simple childlike wonder (and possibly childish) delight at that which is beautiful and mysterious in nature. Of course, such desires can help cause the destruction of war, too, but…hey. People love to be the first and the coolest. As Dalrymple argues above, these childish impulses are the ones that should not be so easily encouraged nor celebrated, especially by Banksy nor his reviewers at the NY Times. I pretty much agree.

On that note, Dear Reader, I’d like to leave you these words from Slate’s review of that hot new motion picture-film, Joker:

‘The opening scene, in which Arthur, who’s peacefully but unhappily twirling a sign for a discount store, is taunted and then beaten by a gang of Latino-coded thugs, draws directly on the narrative of white persecution so effectively weaponized by Donald Trump.’

Glorious!

The British Are Coming, Darth Vaper And Just Look At That Parking Lot

I’m sure there’s already an outfit called ‘Serial Vapist’ (after twenty seconds of searching, yes, in fact, there is).

Here’s Matt Ridley on vaping, and most of the specious arguments made in favor of regulation:

‘Vaping is the perfect example of a voluntary innovation derived from free enterprise that delivers better human health, at no cost to the taxpayer, and no inconvenience to society — and causes pleasure. I neither smoke nor vape and have no financial interest in either, but I wish it every success.’

I AM your father.

As posted: It’s no coincidence that libertarian-minded folk at Reason magazine are addressing the issue. E-cigarettes could be confusing the children in NYC.  The FDA has recently been on the manufacturer’s case.  The City Council takes the smoking ban (get Big Tobacco!) a step further:

What’s a little surprising may be the rush to moral judgment, condemnation and control.

Addition:  Delivering stuff into your lungs with a ‘portable chemistry set’ is going to have side-effects, if we’re honest, but relative to smoking cigarettes and relative to the level of potential moral panic going around, I remain skeptical and open to data. I also remain somewhat skeptical that a movement towards ever-expanding individual freedoms, often towards anarchy, won’t have side-effects either.

Compared to modern revolutionary movements, radical activism, collectivist Romantic tribalism and the morally panicked, one could do much worse.

Get ready for some bloviating:

As this blog sees things, the posture of radical opposition to some existing rule or law, through claims of liberation from oppression, tends to yield an ever-growing list of new and/or hybrid rules and laws.  Radicals, after all, are still full of thoughts, beliefs, hopes, moral and aesthetic judgments etc.  No man is an island, least of all men enmeshed within liberatory, collectivist movements united against the oppressor.

It’s unsurprising that the Marxist tendency to conceive of all of life (personal and public) in economic terms, puts ever more pressure upon ‘capitalism’ and marketplaces (the freer flow of capital) to deliver meaning and purpose in people’s lives.  Though to be fair, some old-school Marxists are sticks-in-the-mud against the postmodern, post-Marxist drift towards radical individualism, nihilism and existentialism, critical of the many knowledge claims within the old systems.

Modern ideological movements tend to promise the good, the true and the beautiful all in one package.  (H)istory has a direction and a purpose which can be known; it can be visualized and actualized.  (H)istory, for the committed ideologue, has an end, and men’s ends can be known and actualized within this vision.

(S)cience, of course, provides precise mathematical and probabilistic knowledge of the Natural world, usually the best knowledge we have, based upon observation.  This knowledge can reach out and describe the material world, elements of which may actually empirically exist similar as they present themselves to our senses and the complex analyses some people perform.

What, I, personally, tend to see as a category error, however, lies in assuming the sciences can produce such knowledge transferable to (H)istory and (P)olitics without information loss; not merely what is, but what ought to be.

On that note, Theodore Dalrymple, prison psychiatrist, tries to take some claims of psychiatry down a peg or two.  Aside from the application of biology, medicine and psychology to people’s interior thoughts, psychology has had some serious reproducibility problems.

Perhaps that latest Self-Help indulgence, or that Psych 101 course applied to HR problem-solving is about as reliable as the abstract metaphysics of a young Man Of God?

Just look at that Parking Lot!:

Dalrymple comes at problems of psychiatry as a psychiatrist, and from the perspective of a humanist.  There’s deep suffering and deep wisdom in literature; the kind of which can cultivate humble self-reflection.  All people and all problems are not necessarily going to be solved in the DSM.

Some of [psychiatry’s] knowledge claims may be slightly inflated, hopes ready to be dashed and lives harmed, especially when they deal with people in prisons and on the edges of society, the most vulnerable and/or dangerous among us.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

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

From Fans Of Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The White Race Is The Cancer Of The Human History.’

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’

What Are You Carrying? Some Tuesday Links

-Rod Dreher has an interesting take on Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film: ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

-Christopher Caldwell questions the wisdom of placing true-believing spokeschildren at the head of your movement.  Ah, the NY Times.

-Theodore Dalrymple on Boris Johnson and the October 31st deadline.

Also via Rod Dreher, these tweets by Carlo Lancelloti (translator of Italian political thinker Augusto Del Noce) ring true.  There are boomer Northeastern Democrats in my family, seemingly unable to cope with many recent changes in the political and media landscape.

In fact, my half-hearted creation, Peace Pavilion West, a center of worship for all well-educated, secular, forward-thinking humanists opens its doors to all weary travelers.

Lest ye think it’s open season on Boomers, remember that you’re getting older, too.  What are you carrying?

As posted:

Please note that there is absolutely no sarcasm below. No somewhat ham-handed attempts at satire. All of the below is absolutely true. Peace Pavilion West is just waiting for People to fill the pews of the Human Pagoda:

You know, instead of the arts reinforcing religious beliefs or biblical stories, or the Romantic return to Nature, or the aims of high-modernism, music just ought to reflect the feelings of bodies juxtaposed in postmodern space. Music should echo thoughts about the Self seeking other Selves within global communities awaiting climate catastrophe:

Will all roads pass through the solar and wind energies of Peace Pavilion West, and the rooftop kale gardens of Manhattan’s Peace Plaza East (in the international, brutal style, of course)?

Will all (P)olitics, (H)istory, (A)rt and (S)cience finally be united in the utopia to come?

We shall have to wait and see.

Possibly related:

The Founder Of Peace Pavilion West-The Early Years

Repost-Cass Sunstein At The New Republic: ‘Why Paternalism Is Your Friend’

Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Who Wants To Help Build A Technocracy? Repost-Megan McArdle At The Daily Beast: ‘The Technocratic Dilemma’

Repost-Six Somewhat Relevant Links In The Current Political Landscape

I’m still getting accustomed to the post 60’s political and cultural landscape in America, at least in response to the current round of progressivism; the idealism and utopianism of many collectivist platforms, and the election of Trump as some sort of response.

As someone of more conservative and religious temperment, but as someone who is not a believer and deeply committed to many projects of the Enlightenment, I’m just looking around for different types of liberalism.  Does equality always run aground on human nature?  Will pursuing broad definitions of the public good always lead to a corruption of the ideal of equality, and less freedom?

Joel Kotkin had an interesting piece Class Warfare For Republicans:

As a Truman-style Democrat left politically homeless, I am often asked about the future of the Republican Party.’

The Tea Party probably might not agree, nor maybe many social and religious conservatives.  The party is deeply, deeply divided.

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Walter Russell Mead seems to be envisioning a reinvigorated liberalism 5.0, arguing that the current union fights, ecotopia, high-speed rail plans, and progressivism aren’t necessarily the best way forward given America’s challenges.  There’s been a fundamental shift that we must adjust to, and it involves technology and globalization for starters.  Repost-Via Youtube: Conversations With History – Walter Russell Mead

Interesting post here:

‘It is important to note, however, that rampant government dependence and economic mismanagement are not exclusively blue-state pathologies. Corrupt and crony Republicans can be every bit as sleazy and dangerous as their Democratic counterparts. South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi are on this list for good reason.’

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Perhaps conservative Briton Roger Scruton is just being nostalgic for what he describes as the old humanism, but there sure is a lot of Hegel informing his thought:

Hesitate!

“There is no need for God, they thought, in order to live with a vision of the higher life. All the values that had been appropriated by the Christian churches are available to the humanist too.”

And he laments the new humanism, which lacks the noblility of purpose of the old, and offers nothing positive:

“Instead of idealizing man, the new humanism denigrates God and attacks the belief in God as a human weakness”

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Copied from Will Wilkinson’s piece on Gerry Gaus’s then new book:

In sum, OPR defends public reason liberalism without contractarian foundations. It is Kantian without being rationalistic. It is Humean without giving up the project of rationally reforming the moral order. It is evolutionary but not social Darwinist. It is classical liberal without being libertarian. It is Hegelian and organicist without being collectivist or statist. It shows us how political authority can be justified but only by accepting that moral authority limits it. It pushes us to look towards the practical and reject the utopian while simultaneously maintaining that a truly free and equal social order is within our grasp. It rejects the aspiration of political liberalism to neutrality among conceptions of morality while simultaneously retaining its spirit by sectioning off social morality from other normative domains.

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Theodore Dalrymple on the new atheists.

Dalrymple:

‘The search for the pure guiding light of reason, uncontaminated by human passion or metaphysical principles that go beyond all possible evidence, continues, however; and recently, an epidemic rash of books has declared success, at least if success consists of having slain the inveterate enemy of reason, namely religion. The philosophers Daniel Dennett, A. C. Grayling, Michel Onfray, and Sam Harris, biologist Richard Dawkins, and journalist and critic Christopher Hitchens have all written books roundly condemning religion and its works. Evidently, there is a tide in the affairs, if not of men, at least of authors.’

As to these more radical groups splintering and applying pressure upwards upon institutions of learning (or at least remaining very vocal and demanding voices within them), I remain skeptical of merely relying upon an adaptable and healthy post-Enlightenment humanism to push back against them in the long-run.

It seems groups of post-Enlightenment individuals gathering to solve commonly defined problems is a risky business, indeed, or at least subject to the same old schisms and problems religious institutions underwent and continue to undergo regarding human nature. I think it’s fair to say people and institutions are often requiring of constraints, especially when it comes to political power and lawmaking; especially when it comes to the challenges our civilization faces from within and without in maintaining institutional authority.

I’d like to think that secularly liberal leadership, more broadly, including the people who want to be in charge of all of us (at their best operating from within moral communities of not too great a solipsism and self-regard) can resist such pressures. For there certainly are those who would fracture our institutions into rafts of post-Enlightenment ‘-isms’ and politicized movements often driven by illiberal ideologies; movements relying on the presumed self-sufficiency of reason while behaving quite irrationally.

I’m looking around and not seeing too much decency in American politics, lately.

Post-60’s, I’m seeing a lot of people sucked into radical discontent, righteous certitude and often religion-deep belief in secular ideals and ideologies, demanding immediate change often faster than institutional stability can keep up.

A.C. Grayling makes one of the better cases for morality without religious doctrine (in Britain), I’ve heard of late, but I’m not entirely sold these particular problems can be addressed sufficiently:

His recent public statements don’t help

People on the modern American right take issue with Rawls, but have they addressed his depth?:  From The American Conservative: Going Off The Rawls–David Gordon On John Rawls…Utilitarianism leads to problems.  Will the Rawlsian center-left hold up?:

From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’… From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke in a strong, libertarian defense of the individual A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Some Friday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce