Thursday, October 30, 2014


click on the "cc" at the bottom for subtitles in english
Haaretz

Drift
Times are changing. That's what they do.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A repeat from 2011, in honor of the fact that Joshua Cohen has now left Stanford and is full time at Apple U
---

From Leiter: Occupy the Airwaves-Episode 6: Political Philosopher John Rawls and Occupy Wall Street: A Discussion with Stanford Professor Joshua Cohen. I posted a comment, quoting Robert Paul Wolff. I posted the same quote on this page in May of last year.
On September 17, 1969 I sent a letter to eleven senior members of the philosophy profession, asking them to serve as co-signers with me on a motion to be presented to the annual meeting of the Eastern Division of the APA, calling for the establishment of a Standing Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession. Alice Ambrose and Morris Lazerowitz [who were husband and wife] came on board, as did Justus Buchler [whose wife taught philosophy], and Sue Larson and Mary Mothersill, both of Barnard. Maurice Mandelbaum, who along with Lewis White Beck had read my Kant manuscript for Harvard, was sympathetic, but pointed out that as the incoming APA president, if he signed he would be in the position of petitioning himself. A good point. The great Classicist Gregory Vlastos also said yes, as did Ruth Marcus, whom I knew from my Chicago days, when she was at Northwestern. Morty White was supportive, but declined to sign for fear that if the motion passed, he would be expected to serve on the committee, something he said he could not do because of writing obligations. That left Jack Rawls, who declined to sign. In retrospect, this does not surprise me. Although Jack was on his way to becoming the world’s leading expert on justice, he never seemed to be there when action was needed.
More:
Joshua Cohen "...is also editor of Boston Review, a bi-monthly magazine of political, cultural, and literary ideas, and a member of the Apple University faculty." [Apple University: "...Apple and Steve Jobs planned a training program in which company executives will be taught to think like him, in 'a forum to impart that DNA to future generations.' Key to this effort is Joel Podolny, former Yale Business School dean."]

Under "links" the page includes a link to a post on the Opinionator blog at the NYT: Rawls on Wall Street. The author, Steven Mazie, is the author also of Israel's Higher Law: Religion and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State

The mediocre politics isn't the issue.
---
Mediocrity larded with pretension and pomp, and cash.
Another repeat, related.
In 1952, Gillen took the problem to the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a trustee. Together with representatives of the university, Bell set up a program called the Institute of Humanistic Studies for Executives. More than simply training its young executives to do a particular job, the institute would give them, in a 10-month immersion program on the Penn campus, what amounted to a complete liberal arts education. There were lectures and seminars led by scholars from Penn and other colleges in the area — 550 hours of course work in total, and more reading, Baltzell reported, than the average graduate student was asked to do in a similar time frame.

...Perhaps the most exciting component of the curriculum was the series of guest lecturers the institute brought to campus. “One hundred and sixty of America’s leading intellectuals,” according to Baltzell, spoke to the Bell students that year. They included the poets W. H. Auden and Delmore Schwartz, the Princeton literary critic R. P. Blackmur, the architectural historian Lewis Mumford, the composer Virgil Thomson. It was a thrilling intellectual carnival.

...What’s more, the graduates were no longer content to let the machinery of business determine the course of their lives. One man told Baltzell that before the program he had been “like a straw floating with the current down the stream” and added: “The stream was the Bell Telephone Company. I don’t think I will ever be that straw again.”

...But Bell gradually withdrew its support after yet another positive assessment found that while executives came out of the program more confident and more intellectually engaged, they were also less interested in putting the company’s bottom line ahead of their commitments to their families and communities. By 1960, the Institute of Humanistic Studies for Executives was finished.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Knock Down the Poor!
I had provided MYSELF with the popular books of the day (this was sixteen or seventeen years ago), and for two weeks I had never left my room. I am speaking now of those books that treat of the art of making nations happy, wise and rich in twenty-four hours. I had therefore digested —swallowed, I should say— alI the lucubrations of all the authorities on the happiness of society -those who advise the poor to become slaves, and those who persuade them that they are all dethroned kings. So it is not astonishing if I was in a state of mind bordering on stupidity or madness. Only it seemed to me that deep in my mind, I was conscious of an obscure germ of an idea, superior to all the old wives’ formulas whose dictionary I had just been perusing But it was only the idea of an idea, something infinitely vague. And I went out with a great thirst, for a passionate taste for bad books engenders a proportionate desire for the open air and for refreshments.

As I was about to enter a tavern, a beggar held out his hat to me, and gave me one of those unforgettable glances which might overturn thrones if spirit could move matter, and if the eyes of a mesmerist could ripen grapes. At the same time I heard a voice whispering in my ear, a voice I recognized: it was that of a good Angel, or of a good Demon, who is always following me about. Since Socrates had his good Demon, why should I not have my good Angel, and why should I not have the honour, like Socrates, of obtaining my certificate of folly, signed by the subtle Lélut and by the sage Baillarger? There is this difference between Socrates’ Demon and mine: his did not appear except to defend, warn or hinder him, whereas mine deigns to counsel, suggest, or persuade. Poor Socrates had only a prohibitive Demon; mine is a great master of affirmations, mine is a Demon of action, a Demon of combat. And his voice was now whispering to me: “He alone is the equal of another who proves it, and he alone is worthy of liberty who knows how to obtain it.”

Immediately, I sprang at the beggar. With a single blow of my fist, I closed one of his eyes, which became, in a second, as big as a ball. In breaking two of his teeth I split a nail; but being of a delicate constitution from birth, and not used to boxing, I didn't feel strong enough to knock the old man senseless; so I seized the collar of his coat with one hand, grasped his throat with the other,and began vigorously to beat his head against a wall. I must confess that I had first glanced around carefully, and had made certain that in this lonely suburb I should find myself, for a short while, at least, out of immediate danger from the police.

Next, having knocked down this feeble man of sixty with a kick in the back sufficiently vicious to have broken his shoulder blades, I picked up a big branch of a tree which lay on the ground, and beat him with the persistent energy of a cook pounding a tough steak.

All of a sudden—O miracle! 0 happiness of the philosopher proving the excellence of his theory! —I saw this ancient carcass turn, stand up with an energy I should never have suspected in a machine so badly out of order, and with a glance of hatred which seemed to me of good omen, the decrepit ruffian hurled himself upon me, blackened both my eyes, broke four of my teeth, and with the same tree-branch, beat me to a pulp. Thus by an energetic treatment, I had restored to him his pride and his life. Then I motioned to him to make him understand that I considered the discussion ended, and getting up. I said to him, with all the satisfaction of a Sophist of the Porch: “Sir, you are my equal! Will you do me the honour of sharing my purse, and will you remember, if you are really philanthropic, that you must apply to all the members of your profession, when they seek alms from you, the theory it has been my misfortune to practice on your back?”

He swore to me that he had understood my theory, and that he
would carry out my advice.
To my parents' undying credit, among their 6+ thousand volume library their copies of anything by Richard Hofstadter were so clean as to be almost but not entirely unread. I want to imagine my father throwing them down in disgust. My mother would never have been tempted to buy them. Hofstadter popped into my mind today. I could've used other examples of academic American crap.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Panofsky, Three Essays on StyleWhat is Baroque? [see previous, and there may be some typos.]
update: I've added the first paragraph, which I've posted before more than once.
The late Scholastic logicians devised amusing helps to memory by which the many forms or figures of syllogism (conclusions from a major and minor premise) could be remembered. These mnemonic devices consisted of words of three syllables partly real and partly made up for the purpose. Each syllable stood for one of the three propositions, and the vowels therein signified the character of these propositions. The vowel a, for instance, denoted a general and positive statement; the vowel o, a partial and negative one. Thus the nice name Barbara, with its three as, designates a syllogism that consists of three general and positive propositions (for instance: 'All men are mortal all mortal beings need food consequently all men need food"). And for a syllogism consisting of one general and positive proposition and two partial and negative ones (for instance: "All cats have whiskers some animals have no whiskers consequently some animals are not cats"), there was coined the word Baroco, containing one a and two os. Either the word, or the peculiarly roundabout fashion of the main of thought denoted by it, or both, must have struck later generations as particularly funny and characteristic of the pedantic formalism to which they objected in medieval thought , and when humanistic writers, including Montaigne, wished to ridicule an unworldly and sterile pedant, they reproached him with having his head full of "Barbara and Baroco," etc. Thus it came about that the word Baroco (French and English Baroque) came to signify everything wildly abstruse, obscure, fanciful, and useless (much as the word intellectual in many circles today). (The other derivation of the term from Latin veruca and Spanish barueca, meaning, originally, a wart and by extension a pearl of irregular shape, is most improbable both for logical and purely linguistic reasons.)

...The twisted and and constrained mentality of the Counter Reformation period shows in innumerable phenomena: for instance, in the frightful conflicts between religious dogma and scientific thought (a problem that had not existed for a man like Leonardo da Vinci), but the most illuminating fact is perhaps the reaction of the period upon the beautiful nude in general and the classical nude in particular. Invectives were burled against Michelangelo's Last Judgement (fig. 33), which escaped destruction only by a thorough chastening. The church stated that classical marbles could be tolerated only if they were not exposed to public view; the sculptor Anunannati (at the age of seventy-one, it is true) repented in sackcloth and ashes for having made figures so scantily dressed, and the bronze fig leaf affixed to classical statues is a very characteristic invention of this period. On the other hand, both artist and art lovers were in reality no less susceptible to the beauty of classical nudes than were the Renaissance people, only their enthusiasm was marred -and sharpened- by a guilty conscience. What in the days of Raphael had been a matter of course now become a matter either of cool archeological interest or sinful excitement, and often a mixture of both.

In Bronzino’s Descent into Limbo (fig. 12) the Eve is a literal adaptation of the Venus of Knidos (fig. 34), much more archaeological than in any work of Raphael; but just this combination of classic beauty with a bashful posture and a seeming intangibility makes the figure almost ambiguous. The beholder feels that beauty is looked upon as something dangerous or even prohibited, and for this very reason is struck by these frozen crystalline nudes as by something more voluptuous and intoxicating than the straightforwardness of High Renaissance art or the sensual brio of the Baroque.

It is therefore not by accident that the Rococo or Louis XV style of the eighteenth century, striving for emotional values of a more or less lascivious kind, shows often an unmistakable similarity to the later phase of mannerism. The Amor and Psyche by Jacopo Zucchi, (fig. 35), a pupil of Vasari, in the Borghese Gallery (1589) strikes us as an actual anticipation of Charles Joseph Natoire’s representation of the same scene in the decoration of the Hôtel de Soubise (fig.36) completed 150 years later, in I739. This the proud and melancholy remoteness of mannerist portraits eloquently expresses the interior tensions or “inhibitions” of the Counter Reformation period, whether we consider a young man such as the Ludovico Copponi (fig.32) in the Frick Collection, or a great lady such as Eleanora of Toledo Grandduchess of Tuscany, as portrayed by Bronzino (fig. 37).

Bernini
A Baroque portrait, however, is free and open to the world again. The attitude of Bernini’s Costanza Buonarelli (fig. 38) sensuously cheerful, throbbing with unrepressed vitality, harmonious in spite of her susceptibility to every kind of impression and emotion. The Baroque (I am speaking only of Italy where the style originated) had overcome the crisis of the Counter Reformation. A modus vivendi had been found in every field; scientists were no longer burnt like Giordano Bruno (whose death might he called an emphatically manneristic occurrence, while the release of Campanella by Urban VII was a Baroque event); Roman sculptures were no longer hidden in cellars; the system of the church was now so powerful that it could afford to be tolerant towards any vital effort, and more than that:it would gradually assimilate and absorb these vital forces, and finally allow the very churches to be filled with that visual symphony of gay putti, glittering gold and theatrical sceneries as seen in the Cathedra Petri. In the field of portraits this gorgeous decoration has a parallel in that late bust by Bernini of Louis XVI (fig. 39), the triumphal outburst of the new freedom gradually conquered during the seventeenth century.

The release or deliverance achieved by the Baroque period can be observed in every field of human endeavor.The Florentine intermedios of the manneristic theater (similar to the English masks) abounded in such complicated allegories as seen in the Intermedio of 1585 and 1589 where the conclusion of Plato’s Republic appeared on the stage, including the Planets, the Harmony of the Spheres, the Three Goddesses of Fate, and even Necessity, holding the adamantine axis of the Universe (fig. 40). We happen to possess the diary of a nobleman who saw this play and stated that it was very beautiful but nobody could understand what it was all about. A few years later those allegories were replaced by the modern opera, full of natural emotions and tuneful melodies (Rinuccini’s Daphne, 1594; Monteverdi’s Orpheus, a bit later). The very style of writing had assumed a specific manneristic character all over the continent (Gongorism in Spain, Euphuism in England: Lyle, Greene and Donne). This too was overcome by Cervantes and Shakespeare. A beautiful instance is Shakespeare's Winter’s Tale (1610-11) deliberately ridiculing the euphuistic prose of the courtiers, and opposing to it the emotional and even versified, but hut beautifully natural, profoundly human speech of the main characters.

Monday, October 20, 2014

see previous.

A ‘Galilean’ science of language, Christina Behme.
Chomsky’s early work introduced innovative ideas, earned him recognition beyond linguistics, and inspired generations of linguists. His early proposals in particular have changed the way linguistic research is conducted. Yet anyone un- familiar with the field who reads one of Chomsky’s early works, e.g. Syntactic Structures (1957) or Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965), back to back with The Science of Language cannot fail to be mystified by the difference. Of course, this dramatic change has not occurred overnight, and marked departures from the path laid out in the early works have been visible in Chomsky’s work for a long time. Despite of this, even linguists who do not work in Chomsky’s framework extend the praise that was justified for early publications to Chomsky’s recent work. A representative example is: ‘[Chomsky’s 1950s] aim was to investigate language at the rigorous level that physics is studied. As we will see over the fol- lowing chapters, this aim is incontrovertibly discernible in his recent work’ (Kinsella 2009: 18). 
Austin
So then we may seem to have armed ourselves with two shiny new concepts with which to crack the crib of Reality, or as it may be, of Confusion -two new keys in our hands, and of course, simultaneously two new skids under our feet. In philosophy, forearmed should be forewarned
Quine
Once the theory of meaning is sharply separated from the theory of reference, it is a short step to recognizing as the business of the theory of meaning simply the synonymy of linguistic forms and the analyticity of statements; meanings themselves, as obscure intermediary entities, may well be abandoned.
"Evening Star" and "Morning Star" / "Palestine" and "Israel".
"Former friends have recounted that Loughner had a fixation for grammar and words, saying that he challenged Giffords at a previous public meeting with the impenetrable question: 'What is government if words have no meaning?' "
Bronzino1552
In 1932, Philip Johnson at MoMA imported European modernist architecture, renamed "International Style", with the expressed politics removed. Johnson himself was a fascist.

You could write a cultural history of post-war rationalism as modernism hollowed out and bureaucratized, as mannerism is the "science" of idealism, reduced to rule-following by pedants and  ironists, then countered by irrationalism, as irrationalists are the children of rationalists and only the grandchildren of adults. Panofsky saw the baroque as a return to the ideals of the renaissance, an idealism transposed. But for that to work here you'd have to begin not with modernism in the 20th century definition, but the modernity of the 19th.  Roger Kimball: "Not for nothing, perhaps, did Bertrand Russell conclude that Johnson, albeit a 'gentleman' and an amusing dinner companion, was at bottom 'a diabolist.'"

I have a hard time thinking of Russell as an adult.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

From Leiter. Another takedown of Chomsky's linguistics.

related:
He'd linked earlier to an article about indecisive robots. I posted a comment on a post by the roboticist who ran the experiment, Alan Winfield, and linked to what began as my letter to Searle.
The post has been getting a lot of hits. My comment:
Build a machine with two separate and competing algorithms, for conditioned response and calculation, and a root level imperative for continued operation: survival. The result will be a neurotic machine, "haunted" by past actions.

Programming a machine for utilitarian responses, a la the "trolley problem" requires a lot of processing capacity, but there's no haunting. Your robots were frozen by competing signals; there was no "mind" to be made up. I'm not sure there's one for animals either, but even if consciousness is epiphenomenal it might not be such a good idea to build robots with the capacity to exhibit it.
On Chomsky, I've been saying it for years. And it's in the paper. I make a lot of enemies, even when I shouldn't. Sahlins was going to publish the thing.
Chomsky will go down in history as an amateur reporter of fact who spent his professional life attacking the importance of facts. He’s an extreme rationalist who’s a great journalist only because he doesn’t take it seriously. But his diagnoses are shallow He promotes an ideal of radical democracy based on assumptions that are as self-serving as they are banal. And he sticks with them while those who shared his Modernist idealism have replaced that naive hope with formalism or arch cynicism. In a sense his arguments are founded in a theory of rational action, not of unbridled self-interest but rational civility, a civility frustrated by outside forces that he can only describe in the simplest terms. And if they’re “outside”, then of what? His logical anarchism is akin to academic philosophy and contemporary academic economics, products of the same era. He’s said he sees no connection between his politics and his linguistic theories but they’re founded in the same Talmudic imperative, intellectual and moral: that man is and must be other than animal. Empirical research has been pushing his linguistics aside and it’s clear to most by now that Chomsky’s greatest achievements are those that are philosophically his most mundane.
"The poverty of the stimulus" arguments amaze me. We're flooded with stimuli; from our earliest moments we're learning to categorize and filter them just so that we can function.
The primacy of perception 
Language is used to describe the endless gradations of sense. Only a purblind bookworm would see ideas as primary. But again, and again, (and again), philosophers in choosing ideas want the god's eye view. They choose Plato over Proust: "In the beginning was the word." But we'll never have a god's eye view, and in the absence of gods no such views exist.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Corey Robin,  Of Collaborators and Careerists.
The collaborator is an elusive figure. With the exception of The Persian Letters and Eichmann in Jerusalem, he seldom makes an appearance in the literature of political fear. One of the reasons for his absence, I suspect, is that he confounds our simple categories of elite and victim. Like the elite, the collaborator takes initiative and receives benefits from his collaboration. Like the victim, he may be threatened with punishment or retribution if he does not cooperate. Many collaborators, in fact, are drawn directly from the ranks of the victims.

Perhaps then we can distinguish between collaborators of aspiration, inspired by a desire for gain, and collaborators of aversion, inspired by a fear of loss. The first are akin to elites, the second to victims. But even that distinction is too neat. Elites also fear loss, and victims hope for gain, and as the economist’s notion of opportunity costs attests, the hope of gain often informs the fear of loss.
The internal exile of Corey Robin.
The Jewish professor, who attends a Conservative synagogue in Brooklyn, long ago came to consider himself an anti-Zionist. But he was always quiet about it. It was painful to talk about, particularly among Jews.
 What an idiot.

Still working on the color, and a few changes in timing. The more I work, the more I know I need to keep working. The point is still to have the first part perfect, so that the rest can fall apart. But now I'm beginning to worry about the rest.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

updated again, and moved to the top.
repeat. Found again by accident; I can't remember all this shit. I'll use it as a preface.
"Former friends have recounted that Loughner had a fixation for grammar and words, saying that he challenged Giffords at a previous public meeting with the impenetrable question: 'What is government if words have no meaning?' "
Follow the first link to Quine, again, and Gödel, and the flaws in the US Constitution.
See also the now previous post's discussion of economics as science.
---
"There is no such thing as 'public reason'. Reason is always private. What there is is 'public form'."

An excuse for repeats. Idiots make it necessary but they make it easy. Leiter's in there too, in the links.

Quiggin on Legal Reasoning 
The discussion got me thinking about the broader problem of legal reasoning, at least in its originalist and textualist forms, and also in precedent-based applications of common law. The assumption in all of these approaches is that by examining (according to some system of rules) what was legislated or decided in the past, lawyers and judges can determine the law as it applies to the case at hand. There are all sorts of well-known difficulties here, such as how words written a century ago should apply to technologies and social structures that did not exist at the time. And it often happens that these approaches produce results that seem unacceptable to most people but for which a legislative or constitutional fix is impossible for some reason.

It’s always seemed to me, though, that there is a much bigger problem with this approach, namely the implicit assumption that “the law” actually exists. That is, it is assumed that, if the appropriate procedure is used to interpret the inherited text, and applied to the problem at hand, it will produce a determinate answer. But why should this be true? The same law might contain contradictory clauses, supported by contradictory arguments, voted in by different majorities, and understood at the time of its passage in contradictory ways. Most notably, the same constitution might grant universal freedoms in one place, while recognising slavery in another.
"It’s always seemed to me, though, that there is a much bigger problem with this approach, namely the implicit assumption that 'the law' actually exists."

Laws exist as words on the page, and we debate the meanings of those words, and debate them again each time we apply laws to actions, but there is no singular "Law". Quiggin, like philosophers, wants "truth", but law isn't truth; it's decision-making and conflict resolution through the use of common form. "The living Constitution" is not a doctrine; it's a given, because language is living; meanings are fluid, and we experience the world as a world of meanings, a world of subjective "enchantment". Form is public. Law is mediation through the state. It is not truth.

And of course those who want "truth" are opposed to art. [link to previous on Leiter, Plato, Gombrich etc. Everything's a repeat going back 30 years]

Quine
A felt need for meant entities may derive from an earlier failure to appreciate that meaning and reference are distinct. Once the theory of meaning is sharply separated from the theory of reference, it is a short step to recognizing as the business of the theory of meaning simply the synonymy of linguistic forms and the analyticity of statements; meanings themselves, as obscure intermediary entities, may well be abandoned.
Weber
Consider a discipline such as aesthetics. The fact that there are works of art is given for aesthetics. It seeks to find out under what conditions this fact exists, but it does not raise the question whether or not the realm of art is perhaps a realm of diabolical grandeur, a realm of this world, and therefore, in its core, hostile to God and, in its innermost and aristocratic spirit, hostile to the brotherhood of man. Hence, aesthetics does not ask whether there should be works of art.
Quine and Weber were reactionaries. Quiggin is only a pedant who doesn't realize the dangers of pedantry.


Quiggin, again and again and again
The claims about Art criticised in Art, an Enemy of The People, are very similar to those made by most religions, namely that there is a special category of people (prophets or artists) and a special category of activities (Religion or Art) which yield transcendent insights into the human condition, and which should be accorded special privileges over other people and other ways of finding meaning and enjoyment in life.
It's Rashomon, you idiots
see also

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Noah Smith, from Farrell 
To a lot of people, the empirics revolution must seem like a step backward. We look back to the huge successes of chemistry and physics and medicine in the last few centuries, and the rock-solid theories they generated, and we compare it to the regressions economists are running nowadays, and we say "Ugh, this isn't science!" We look at the progression from history to experiment, and we think that new methods (if they exist) should go the same way - i.e., they should lead us to deeper understanding. But empirics, instead, goes in the direction of wider applicability with less-deep understanding, and that rankles some people.

I don't think they should be rankled. Empirics is an innovation that allows us to know some things about big phenomena that previously we could only understand through written history. It's not a substitute for experiments, it's a complement. It's a valuable addition to humanity's toolkit, whether you want to call it "science" or not.
my comment repeating the obvious.
If history were a science we would have "solved" many questions of the past by now. But there will always be just one more book about Henry IV or Abraham Lincoln. In describing the past we describe the present.

Similarly there's a feedback loop in economics. If we take self-interest for granted then we increase our tendency to self-interest. If we assume self-interest is crude or vulgar we mitigate against it. Georges Lefebvre notes that the majority of the aristocracy were not rich and did not know how, or want, to become rich. They wanted their privileges but not more. This has been lost on defenders of contemporary economic "science".

There's no reinforcement in geology.
repeats. Lefebvre and Crooked Timber, and...

"the empirics revolution" is big data. Back to Moretti and Shalizi

Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution
The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich. The great majority of younger sons had no desire to "derogate." They sought the remedy elsewhere, in a growing exclusiveness. Some held that the nobility should form a body like the clergy and be constituted as a closed caste. For the last time, in stating grievances in 1789, they were to demand a verification of titles of nobility and the suppression of automatic creation of nobility through the sale of offices. Likewise it was held that, if the king was to count on "his loyal nobility," he should recognize that they alone had the necessary rank to advise him and to command in his name; he should grant them a monopoly of employments compatible with their dignity, together with free education for their sons.
Aristotle, Politics,  Book 4
The distribution of offices according to merit is a special characteristic of aristocracy, for the principle of an aristocracy is virtue, as wealth is of an oligarchy, and freedom of a democracy. In all of them there of course exists the right of the majority, and whatever seems good to the majority of those who share in the government has authority. Now in most states the form called polity exists, for the fusion goes no further than the attempt to unite the freedom of the poor and the wealth of the rich, who commonly take the place of the noble. But as there are three grounds on which men claim an equal share in the government, freedom, wealth, and virtue (for the fourth or good birth is the result of the two last, being only ancient wealth and virtue), it is clear that the admixture of the two elements, that is to say, of the rich and poor, is to be called a polity or constitutional government; and the union of the three is to be called aristocracy or the government of the best, and more than any other form of government, except the true and ideal, has a right to this name.
Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Book Five, Chapter One
We have just seen that the laws of education should have a relation to the principle of each government. It is the same for the laws the legislator gives to the society as a whole. This relation between the laws and the principle tightens all the springs of the government, and the principle in turn receives a new force from the laws. Thus, in physical motion, an action is always followed by a reaction. We shall examine this relation in each government, and we shall begin with the republican state, which has virtue for its principle.
Montesquieu contra Aristotle, virtue contra "science".
I've been meaning to tack the Montesquieu bit onto the others for awhile now.

Political scientists, philosophers and economists are lousy scholars. Just lousy. I'm a lazy amateur. I don't know shit. But they indulge more than I do.

R.B. Bernstein. From the forward to my copy of The Federalist
Beginning in the 1950s and blossoming since 1961, a major scholarly controversy has sucked The Federalist into its gravitational field: What was its role in the great shift from republicanism to liberalism in American political thought? These complex bodies of ideas and practices have almost no direct links to today’s Republican party or modern American liberalism; moreover, these terms have become so vague that many historians have abandoned both words as useless.

Desiring to preserve liberty and to achieve the common good, Americans established republican forms of government—in which the people held ultimate political power, entrusting it to representatives responsible to them. Every previous republic, however, had collapsed into anarchy or tyranny. The precondition for a successful republic, therefore, was to maintain the people's virtue —their willingness to sacrifice special interests in the service of the public interest.

By contrast, those who espoused liberalism favored each person's right to pursue his or her talents and abilities to the fullest extent possible. The strongest case for a republic, they argued, was precisely that it would enable each citizen to develop those talents; a republic should take the greatest possible pains not to restrain that process but to
guide it so that individuals‘ pursuit of their own interests would foster the public interest.

Scholars who identify a great transition from republicanism to liberalism marked by the making of the Constitution and those who insist that the Constitution maintained the American commitment to republicanism find ammunition in The Federalist. That they can read it for such clashing purposes. however. undermines this argument's usefulness for understanding The Federalist or the historical context that produced it. Today, historians and legal scholars such as Jack N. Rakove, Bruce Ackerman, William E. Nelson, and the present writer are moving beyond this debate's stale polarities. Instead. they suggest, American constitutionalism embodies an ever-shifting balance between these two bodies of thought; there was thus no dramatic sea-change from one to the other.
The sea-change is real, and the victory of liberalism over republicanism connects to the victory of technocracy and scientism. Virtue is an explicit prior. There's no way it could be expected to prevail in the age of objectivity, reason, and "value free" science. But capitalism can thrive.

Technocracy is not democracy. It's become a stock phrase for me. And though Ackerman and Balkin, et al. (again) make arguments founded in republicanism, in Balkin's case at least I've always said he's never made arguments forcefully enough. Spencer Coxe: "The ACLU is a conservative organization" Another stock phrase, though sometimes I write "institution".  Republicanism is conservative. The focus is on the freedom of a people, not on freedom of persons: on the plural, not the singular. In the context of modern American political debate, republicanism is the moral equivalent of Stalinism. None of the writers above claim to be anything but liberal.
---
related, continuing.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

More on legal reasoning

Andrew Koppelman at Balkin
My paper, Did the Law Professors Blow It in the Health Care Case?, has now been published in the new issue of the Illinois Law Review, along with other responses to David Hyman’s paper, Why Did Law Professors Misunderestimate the Lawsuits Against the PPACA? [link - se] There is also a response by Prof. Hyman.

In his article, Professor Hyman criticized “the epic failure of law professors to accurately predict how Article III judges would handle the case.” The culprit, he concludes, was the experts’ insularity and arrogance. My essay offers a different explanation for the professors’ surprise at the seriousness with which the challenge was taken. The oral argument caused great consternation precisely because judges who had previously endorsed a broad view of Congressional power now suddenly abandoned principles that had been unquestioned for decades, and embraced limits that they had never before even mentioned and that made no sense as a matter of either constitutional interpretation or political philosophy. The explanation for the near-success of the challenge was a combination of libertarian prepossessions and pure Republican party loyalty. The essay concludes that because such behavior is so far outside the bounds of normal, responsible judicial action, the law professors did not anticipate it.

Hyman, you won't be shocked to learn, is unpersuaded.
High politics in law: following Balkin, or both following the same tradition [Taruskin-and here] In terms of blogging also for both of us going back to the beginning

Larry Solum v Balkin
[T]he distinction between high politics and low politics .... [is a] conjuring trick. If the universe consists of decisions that are either high politics or low politics, then it's all politics. But it isn't all politics. The crucial distinction is not between political decisions that favor your ideology and those that favor your party. It isn't even between political decisions that are based on general principles you believe in and those which adopt principles you abhor to get to the results that you like. The crucial distinction is between decisions that are based on the law--on things like texts, history, and precedent--and decisions that are based on politics.
repeats:
Stangneth. I'd read something by her earlier, before the book was translated; it left a bad taste in my mouth and still does.
Eichmann Before Jerusalem is also a dialogue with Hannah Arendt, and not simply because I first came to this topic many years ago through Eichmann in Jerusalem. Our understanding of history is so dependent on our own time and circumstances that we cannot ignore a perspec­tive like Arendt’s. She had the courage to form a clear judgment, even at the risk of knowing too little in spite of all her meticulous work. And one of the most significant insights to be gained from studying Adolf Eichmann is reflected in Arendt: even someone of average intelligence can induce a highly intelligent person to defeat herself with her own weapon: her desire to see her expectations fulfilled. We will be able to recognize this mechanism only if thinkers deal bravely enough with their expectations and judgments to see their own failure.
Roger Berkowitz
It is important to recognize that much of what Stangneth writes accords with Arendt’s own account of Eichmann, so much so that Stangneth lauds Arendt for seeing with an insight what others had not. It is worth rehearsing the similarities in their accounts before considering the differences.

First, both Stangneth and Arendt insist that Eichmann is evil. This simple fact is too often forgotten. Arendt not only defends the Israeli Court’s decision to hang Eichmann, she also writes in her imagined judgment of Eichmann that he was so evil, “no one, that is no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with [him].”

Second, Stangneth illuminates Arendt’s account of Eichmann’s enormous pride, that “bragging had always been one of [Eichmann’] cardinal vices.” Stangneth’s account of Eichmann’s early Nazi career argues that he “claimed a place in world history for himself” and that he cultivated the image of a “young god…. His pride is obvious.” Eichmann imagined himself the “Czar of the Jews” and the “Jewish Pope,” and he called himself a “bloodhound.” Both Arendt and Stangneth emphasize Eichmann’s fantasy of his own importance.

Third, both Arendt and Stangneth insist that Eichmann is an inveterate liar. To take but one example that is frequently misrepresented, Arendt disbelieves Eichmann’s claims that he had not been an anti-Semite and that he had begun his career by seeking to help the Jews. She never says he wasn’t an anti-Semite (although such words are put in her mouth in the recent movie “Hannah Arendt.”) At the same time, it is true that Arendt does not emphasize Eichmann’s anti-Semitism to the extent Stangneth does and that Arendt does not have as much evidence of his anti-Semitism. One virtue of Stangneth’s account is that she supplies important details that help understand Eichmann’s anti-Semitism, which, as was typical of many Nazis, was based neither on religious hatred nor a conspiratorial belief in Jewish world domination. Stangneth shows that Eichmann denied the “blood libel” (the false accusation that Jews had killed Christian children and used their blood in rituals) and rejected as a forgery the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the notorious anti-Semitic tract (and a czarist forgery). Rather, Eichmann justified genocide and the extermination of the Jews by appealing to the “fatherland morality that beat within him.” He spoke of the “necessity of a total war” and relied on his oath to Hitler and the Nazi flag, a bond he calls “the highest duty.” Eichmann was an anti-Semite because he was a committed Nazi and Nazism was incomprehensible without anti-Semitism.
Stangneth, interviewed by Frum.
"The Lies of Adolf Eichmann: German philosopher Bettina Stangneth reexamines the Nazi commander—and the true nature of evil." 
Is she aware how this is being played?
I’m a philosopher, and philosophers can’t write about anything without exploring the deeper meaning. I’m not a prophet, though, and I don’t think any writer could answer these questions. You would have to ask the readers.

I think we miss the point, though, when we talk only about anti-Semitism and Europe. I believe modern anti-Semitism is a symptom of a much bigger problem today, because we have forgotten its origins: The anti-Semitism of the Nazis was, above all, a disbelief in human equality! The Nazis were convinced that our world is too small for us, that we don’t have enough resources, that some humans are superior to others, and that only those humans have the right to survive—and the obligation to kill those who don’t. For them, the Jews symbolized internationalism, rationalism, globalism, and universal moral standards.
German philo-semitism,  Zionism and moral realism. Perverse from every angle.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

repeat, from 2004.
Foundations change with every decision, but are still foundations; languages change, but are still language. There is no either/or. Such a narrative philosophy, by way of, rather than concerning narrative, is as frustrating to leftists as it is to conservatives, as frustrating to bureaucrats as it is to analytic philosophers. It simply denies the law of non-contradiction. Such a process can be rigorously formal and intellectual, but it can not be static, except inasmuch as we are limited by the parameters of being. One person can not invent language, and it is impossible to circumvent the ambiguities caused by its creation.

At some point, philosophy fails, and something else must take its place. To practice philosophy as if this point does not occur is to choose systems in isolation from the world, over a reciprocal relationship with what they are supposed to represent.

In other words: By denying Bullshit its role and proper place, you lose the ability to communicate anything of objective worth.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I've put a link to the paper up again, on the sidebar. Scroll down a bit.
Found by someone else, then by me. Another old post on Leiter.
update: Given new events, I'll repost a bit, and move it to the front.
There's something wishy-washy about discussions of historical change. Philosophy is logical, not narrative, right? it's not just that Thomas is a radical, it's that he's a radical with no social or popular support, no social reality surrounding and reinforcing his arguments. There is now such a reality surrounding the idea of gay marriage. As I said a few months ago: "The dam broke. It's over." What was once less than normal, has become normal. And this change as regards homosexuality has become more and more clear over the past few months. Leiter's is not a philosophy of historical change, however, which is why he refers to changes in our subjective experience only after the fact, and does so by quoting others. I think there is no way to really understand how out of step, how absurd, Thomas' arguments are without understanding how we have changed and that this change is not only logical but moral and subjective.
"The dam broke. It's over."

"In 10 years, there will be no more Israel."

see also, following

Monday, October 06, 2014

Looking for the Leo Steinberg story added to the post on Arendt below, I found another I'd forgotten, that I've now attached to the post it continued from, both reposted here.
---


Reading Steinberg's "The Philosophical Brothel."

Still surprised by the filters used by modern/modernist intellectuals to interpret the preoccupations of themselves and their compatriots. As with Eliot, the theme is not "form" but a fear of the power of representation and of what will be represented if representation is allowed its full weight. And it is allowed that weight here as in Eliot's poetry. That's the greatness and the terror. The painting first and foremost is if not a castration scene then a description of the terror that the act or worse may be in the offing, with the painter/viewer as the victim. Talk of form and formalism was an absurd cover, as absurd as any talk of "advancement" in the arts; and even those who eschew formalist arguments to this day argue from pretensions of progress.

The importance of Les Demoiselles D'Avignon is less that it marks the beginning of Cubism than that it marks the high point. The work after it slides downhill -first gradually, later quickly- away from representation towards formalism, the "meaning" of ideas, and the logic of intention.
---
...the three central figures address the observer with unsparing directness. Neither active nor passive, they are simply alerted, responding to an alerting attentiveness on our side.
5 lines later
The Picture is a tidal wave of female aggression, one either experiences the Demoiselles as an onslaught, or shuts it off.
It's less that all these terms are mutually exclusive than that Steinberg is still coming to terms with them.



The sharpest melon slice in the history of art.
---
[Below, published a couple of days later 1/29/10, and forgotten. It makes more sense to join them.]

More, because I'm still reading, and it's apropos: the intellectual's unawareness, méconnaissance, of sexuality, their own and others. He spends a lot of time arguing that the central figure in the painting is in an ambiguous position: upright signaling recumbence. And he worries that he may be wrong.


Recumbency, passivity and objecthood. Posing, presentation and gender roles. Googling the phrase "her arms framing her face" got 8 hits. "Her arms frame her face" got 547. And on... The aggression was new, recumbence and mockery, in 1906.