Sunday, March 18, 2018

Repeat, two years ago

"That explains it." It still does.

Leiter: "...but given that she's an assistant professor in a field with no discernible wissenschaftlich standards..."

Rauchway, repeats of repeats, originally here
[A] traditional defense of academic freedom... goes something like this: Academic freedom predates free speech. Although Prussia gave constitutional protection to Lehrfreiheit in 1850 (“science and its teaching shall be free”), academic freedom generally does not enjoy legal protection outside of contractual guarantees; rather, it rests on the authority and ability of a community of competent scholars to police their own discourse and on the willingness of universities to affirm this authority and ability.
Kant and de Maistre (start here)
Kant, What is Enlightenment?
Thus we observe here as elsewhere in human affairs, in which almost everything is paradoxical, a surprising and unexpected course of events: a large degree of civic freedom appears to be of advantage to the intellectual freedom of the people, yet at the same time it establishes insurmountable barriers. A lesser degree of civic freedom, however, creates room to let that free spirit expand to the limits of its capacity. 
de Maistre
Everything that constrains a man, strengthens him.
Joshua Yoder: The Case Of Human Plurality: Hannah Arendt's Critique Of Individualism In Enlightenment And Romantic Thinking [pdf]
According to Leonard Krieger, the concept of individual freedom, or "individual secular liberty," characterized political thought in Western Europe as early as the seventeenth century. The freedom of the individual depended on maintaining some kind of distance from political authority. In Germany, however, "individualized freedom", or Freiheit, had to contend with another notion of freedom already present: Libertaet, which referred to the rights of German princes within the Holy Roman Empire. After 1650, as German princes began to exercise more political control, they interpreted Libertaet as the freedom to rule without Imperial interference. The idea of Libertaet, along with centralized administration and growing bureaucracies, changed the German principalities into sovereign territorial states. Yet, within these states the individual, and individual rights, still occupied an ambiguous role. Krieger argues
The German princes never ceased to feel themselves aristocrats as well as monarchs, not only personally because of their family origins and connections, not only socially because of their special dependence on the nobility worked by the peculiarities of the German economic and social structure, but even institutionally, because the social and constitutional structures were so integrally intertwined that the very development of the German princes toward absolute sovereignty in their own territory was at the same time a development of their aristocratic rights within the [Holy Roman] German Empire. It was this institutional connection between sovereign power and aristocratic liberties... that made this kind of Libertaet the representative expression of German political liberty in the old regime.
From 1650-1750, as the more individualistic ideas of Freiheit spread into Germany from enlightened thinkers in Western Europe, they were transformed to fit the prevalent ideas of Libertaet, resulting in the notion of enlightened absolutism. German thinkers "adopted western assumptions which made individuals the primary units of society and individual rights the basis and the limitation of the state, but they interpreted these assumptions in a way compatible with the preservation of the peculiar German corporate rights and made the prince arbiter over all." Using natural law, German thinkers were able to combine inalienable rights and political obligation in the form of an absolutist state. After 1750, political ideas in Western Europe continued to further reflect notions of "material individualism,"but in Germany "natural law absolutism" held sway in both theory and practice until the French Revolution.

[Leonard Krieger, The German Idea of Freedom: History of a Political Tradition]
What is Enlightenment?
I have emphasized the main point of the enlightenment--man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage-- primarily in religious matters, because our rulers have no interest in playing the guardian to their subjects in the arts and sciences. Above all, nonage in religion is not only the most harmful but the most dishonorable. But the disposition of a sovereign ruler who favors freedom in the arts and sciences goes even further: he knows that there is no danger in permitting his subjects to make public use of their reason and to publish their ideas concerning a better constitution, as well as candid criticism of existing basic laws. We already have a striking example [of such freedom], and no monarch can match the one whom we venerate.

But only the man who is himself enlightened, who is not afraid of shadows, and who commands at the same time a well disciplined and numerous army as guarantor of public peace--only he can say what [the sovereign of] a free state cannot dare to say: "Argue as much as you like, and about what you like, but obey!" Thus we observe here as elsewhere in human affairs, in which almost everything is paradoxical, a surprising and unexpected course of events: a large degree of civic freedom appears to be of advantage to the intellectual freedom of the people, yet at the same time it establishes insurmountable barriers. A lesser degree of civic freedom, however, creates room to let that free spirit expand to the limits of its capacity. Nature, then, has carefully cultivated the seed within the hard core--namely the urge for and the vocation of free thought. And this free thought gradually reacts back on the modes of thought of the people, and men become more and more capable of acting in freedom. At last free thought acts even on the fundamentals of government and the state finds it agreeable to treat man, who is now more than a machine, in accord with his dignity.
When I first read it the contradictions annoyed me; they were obvious and stupid. I didn't have the patience to read for context. Later it made sense, but I'm just disgusted that the contradictions are simply ignored.
Although he took a keen interest in the great British philosophers - he later discovered and edited some new letters by Hume - he shared Cassirer's dismay at the blinkered approach of the analytical philosophers who dominated the Oxford scene: ignoring the historical context of thinkers such as Leibniz, the only thing they wanted to know was whether his statements were true according to their own criteria.
Formalism and anti-humanist pseudoscience in the age of Weber: the age of plumbers.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The irony of the masters

The Enlightenment: History of an Idea
Vincenzo Ferrone

It just doesn't stop.
Paraphrasing the great Karl Marx in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, one might say that a specter is haunting Europe: it is the specter of the Enlightenment. It looks sad and emaciated, and, though laden with honors, bears the scars of many a lost battle. However, it is undaunted and has not lost its satirical grin. In fact it has donned new clothes and continues to haunt the dreams of those who believe that the enigma of life is all encompassed within the design of a shadowy and mysterious god, rather than in the dramatic recognition of the human being’s freedom and responsibility.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, some thought that it was time to liquidate what was le of the heritage of the Enlightenment. Surely they could now, nally, lay to rest that ambitious and troublesome cultural revolution, a movement that in the course of the eighteenth century had overcome a thou- sand obstacles to overthrow the seemingly immutable tenets of Ancien Régime Europe. One could at last put paid to the fanciful Enlightenment notion of the emancipation of man through man, i.e., to the idea that human beings could become enfranchised by their own forces alone, including the deployment of knowledge old and new that had been facilitated by the emergence of new social groups armed with a formidable weapon: critical thought.

Sapere aude—dare to know. Come of age. Do not be afraid to think with your own head. Leave aside all ancient auctoritates and the viscous condition- ing of tradition. us wrote the normally self-controlled Immanuel Kant in a moment of rare enthusiasm in 1784, citing the Enlightenment motto. However in our day, under the disguise of modern liberals, some eminent reactionaries have even entertained the dream that it might be possible to restore all the Ancien Régime’s reassuring certainties without ring a single shot. ey would all come ooding back: God’s rights (and therefore those of ecclesiastical hierarchies), inequality’s prescriptive and natural character, legal sanction for the rights of the few, the primacy of duties over rights, the clash of communities and ethnicities against any cosmopolitan or universalistic mirage.
" is the specter of the Enlightenment. It looks sad and emaciated, and, though laden with honors, bears the scars of many a lost battle. However, it is undaunted and has not lost its satirical grin."

Alex Rosenberg says academic philosophy is non-hierarchical, or "flat". Younger academic pedants disagree.  Leiter calls it a "slave rebellion"

"Irony is the glory of slaves." Milosz was a humanist. The satirical grin of the Enlightenment was the grin of those who lost.

Pinker's book is being mocked. Ferrone's is being taken very seriously.

How many times?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

"So, too, our Collegiate Gothic, which may be seen in its most resolutely picturesque (and expensive) phase at Yale, is more relentlessly Gothic than Chartres, whose builders didn't even know they were Gothic and missed so many chances for quaint effect."

The Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
Age of Reason
The jump in the last, courtesy of Tom Paine.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The second is recent. He wasn't being facetious. The exchanges continued; he had to be convinced.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

… But now we have another problem.
What is that?
What if we find out what makes each of us internally consistent? What if I find your proper name, that thing which describes exactly what you are?
Than I will always be honest, or predictable at least. And you will be able to interpret everything I say and never be wrong. And of course I’ll know your name as well.
No dishonesty, no subterfuge, no Freud, no art… Then we can all be logical positivists.
But it doesn’t matter. That dream’s irrelevant.
I want unification.
It’s an illusion.
I want the illusion.
Do you want the illusion or do you want the illusion to be real?
What’s the difference?
One means that you have an appreciation of the arts. The other means that you’re a fascist.
still writing this shit...
I thought the above was obvious when I wrote it, and I ignore the fact that people never get the joke, or laugh but are unwilling to admit what it means. I have to turn a paragraph of dialogue into a book for people to take it seriously and think. And even that won't do any good.

The fact is that every artist knows that they're the god of their imaginary world, and knows also that that world exists on as the result of craft, a world in words or paint or stone. Art as craft is the communication of sensation, it's not sensation itself. All artists admit to this ironic understanding, and are no less committed. A work of art squares the circle for its maker/s and no one else.

Art is the creation and recreation of this world as a richer one, of animate and inanimate objects suffused with meaning. It's the construction of a moral world, where every aspect manifests the unity of the whole. That world could be a Hell, but it will have the integrity of a hell beyond any hell that could ever exist outside human imagination.

It is a hell crafted out of a medium: language, paint, stone, or silver halide, and it cannot exist outside the material. A successful work of art is an artifice that pulls us into an illusion and reminds us that it is one. A writer of hells is a writer, not a hell-maker. "A Holbein portrait is first a painting, second a Holbein, third a portrait, and fourth a portrait of.  Art is first artifice and the medium carries the weight and the responsibility of presence." Art is a lie that tells us it is a lie and still makes us want to believe. And it is a work of craft that reminds us it is a work of craft and asks for our acknowledgment and respect. The pleasure of art comes from the tension between the two.

A culture, or a period in any culture will manifest its ethos, and contradictions, in its art. Art history is comparative. We don't share the fantasies of people of the past, but we can read the records, and we experience the sensibilities, the ethea -having looked up the plural of ethos- in art. The work we value of the past and the work of the present that will be valued in the future, describe, and make manifest, desires and contradictions that we, in reading, or looking, can still feel. We study and re-study art because we continue individually to experience it, even as we're taking it apart and examining it. In studying the  art of the past or present, we learn about ourselves, but we remember that people in the future will be better judges  of our art, and of us than we are. The value of art is the value of the honesty that can come with drunkenness. But the people who make it are reminding us and themselves, constantly, that in fact we're all still sober, and also that we are never sober.

The modern invention, kitsch, is the ideal of a fantasy world without mediation, without craft or medium. It's a dream that the dreamer asks or demands to be taken as reality.

Fascism is living life as art, believing your own lies, and mandating that others believe them too: it's the weakling with a gun, the pederast from Opus Dei. Offering a drag queen the courtesy of the female pronoun is an acknowledgement of art, a compliment for an artful lie. His demand to be called a woman is fascist.

Art is a lie that reminds us that it's a lie, even as it temps us. It's how we learn about our hopes and temptations and ourselves. Fascism is the choice to follow the lie and demand that others follow.

a new draft of something. I'm still writing the post.

Monday, February 12, 2018

I'd always thought of Teachout as a overly earnest and shallow, self-serving, moral conservative, but now nihilism is a moral option.

Friday, February 09, 2018

rationalism v empiricism, theory v practice, legal philosophers v lawyers, universalism v particularism (or universalism as such v universalism in the context of particular experience), blablabla, etc. etc, just to keep the links handy.  The case and the Ginsburg quote specifically is well known.

1- Academic Ethics: Is ‘Diversity’ the Best Reason for Affirmative Action?
What went unnoted is that most Anglophone philosophy departments offer little or no coverage of most of Western philosophy of the past two centuries, from Hegel to Nietzsche to Habermas. Leading philosophy departments from Princeton to Oxford are, indeed, not very intellectually diverse, but their lack of diversity reflects no submerged racial or ethnic motivation: It reflects, instead, the evolution of a discipline — hugely shaped by refugees from Nazism, ironically — that moved closer to the natural sciences than the other humanities in its conception of method.

No one, to my knowledge, is complaining about lack of attention to "Chinese" physics in American physics departments, which suggests that here, again, diversity is being invoked opportunistically to avoid a substantive debate about the merits of alternative methods and substantive views, or the virtues of specialization in a particular method. As Thomas Kuhn famously observed many years ago, "normal science" often makes great progress when there is not diversity, but convergence on methods, assumptions, and problems.
2- Supreme Court Rules Strip Search Violated 13-Year-Old Girl's Rights
Arizona school officials violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old girl when they strip-searched her on the suspicion she might be hiding ibuprofen in her underwear, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The decision put school districts on notice that such searches are "categorically distinct" from other efforts to combat illegal drugs.

In a case that had drawn attention from educators, parents and civil libertarians across the country, the court ruled 8 to 1 that such an intrusive search without the threat of a clear danger to other students violated the Constitution's protections against unreasonable search or seizure.

Justice David H. Souter, writing perhaps his final opinion for the court, said that in the search of Savana Redding, now a 19-year-old college student, school officials overreacted to vague accusations that Redding was violating school policy by possessing the ibuprofen, equivalent to two tablets of Advil.

What was missing, Souter wrote, "was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear."

It was reasonable to search the girl's backpack and outer clothes, but Safford Middle School administrators made a "quantum leap" in taking the next step, the opinion said. "The meaning of such a search, and the degradation its subject may reasonably feel, place a search that intrusive in a category of its own demanding its own specific suspicions," Souter wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter. "Judges are not qualified to second-guess the best manner for maintaining quiet and order in the school environment," he wrote.

He said administrators were only being logical in searching the girl. "Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments," he wrote. "Nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school."

The court's virtual unanimity was in contrast to the intense oral argument that seemed to exasperate the court's only female member, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She later said her male colleagues seemed not to appreciate the trauma such a search would have on a developing adolescent.

"They have never been a 13-year-old girl," she told USA Today when asked about her colleagues' comments during the arguments. "It's a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn't think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood."

But yesterday's opinion recognized just that. "Changing for gym is getting ready for play," Souter wrote. "Exposing for a search is responding to an accusation reserved for suspected wrongdoers" and is so degrading that a number of states and school districts have banned strip searches. The Washington region's two largest school districts are among them.
I've linked to Ginsburg before, making the same point; ditto Leiter.
But it's not often Leiter's so direct in defending scientistic arguments for philosophy. But saying that would be ignoring his reference to Kuhn.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

You know,…it is easy in America to take a very tiny sum like five hundred thousand dollars and turn it into three hundred million! So easy! But you know what? I don’t want to. Because eet means raping those poor fuckers the American public even more than they are already. You know what ees the difference between the European peasant and the American peasant? The American peasant eats sheet, wears sheet, watches sheet on TV, looks out of his window at sheet! How can we go on raping them and giving them more sheet to buy!
Omygod, I think, this is the man who dragged Cambodia into the Vietnam War, but of course I say nothing, even when a waitress comes by to ask what we want to eat.

“What’s on the menu?” asks Kissinger, and I can barely restrain myself from shrieking, “What’s on the menu, Henry? Would that be Operation Menu?

Instead I obsequiously offer to go and fetch some nibbles. With success comes compromise, and it’s amazingly easy to forget two million massacred Cambodians as one is passing around the cheese straws.

The first passage above is "an unnamed Italian art dealer" in NY, as quoted by Tina Brown; the second is from a memoir by Rupert Everett, used by the author of the review as a comparison and model of what a chatty jet set memoir should be. I'm not sure he's fully aware of the relation.

"Craig Brown has been a columnist for Private Eye since 1989." His first piece for the NYRB, courtesy of Ian Baruma.

According to Wikipedia, Everett is a former sex worker, supporter of legalized prostitution, opponent of gay marriage and Starbucks, and a patron of the British Monarchist Society.
He's there, right between Andrea Leadsom and Boris Johnson, just above John Barrowman.

a gentleman never lets politics get in the way of a friendship etc.

new tag for Aristocrats.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Three seems like piling on.
It's an unequivocal no from me. The way your colleague Ashleigh (?), someone I'm certain no one under the age of 45 has ever heard of, by the way, ripped into my source directly was one of the lowest, most despicable things I've ever seen in my entire life. Shame on her. Shame on HLN. Ashleigh could have "talked" to me. She could have "talked" to my editor or my publication. But instead, she targeted a 23-year-old woman in one of the most vulnerable moments of her life, someone she's never f---ing met before, for a little attention. I hope the ratings were worth it! I hope the ~500 RTs on the single news write-up made that burgundy lipstick bad highlights second-wave feminist has-been feel really relevant for a little while. She DISGUSTS me, and I hope when she has more distance from the moment she has enough of a conscience left to feel remotely ashamed — doubt it, but still. Must be nice to piggyback off of the fact that another woman was brave enough to speak up and add another dimension to the societal conversation about sexual assault. Grace wouldn't know how that feels, because she struck out into this alone, because she's the bravest person I've ever met. I would NEVER go on your network. I would never even watch your network. No woman my age would ever watch your network. I will remember this for the rest of my career — I'm 22 and so far, not too shabby! And I will laugh the day you fold. If you could let Ashleigh know I said this, and that she is no-holds-barred the reason, it'd be a real treat for me.

The corollary of 'Bro' is 'Babe'
Universities would deserve criticism for rejecting a presentation by the authors of the Nuremberg Laws, but would be right in rejecting a speech by a rabble-rousing journalist who promotes them.
Steve Bannon is a Yes.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Monday, January 01, 2018

Making the rounds again, if not among people born in this country, though they may live here:
"An oldie but goodie", "Ages like fine wine".

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Margot met Robert on a Wednesday night toward the end of her fall semester. She was working behind the concession stand at the artsy movie theatre downtown when he came in and bought a large popcorn and a box of Red Vines.
That option, of blunt refusal, doesn’t even consciously occur to her—she assumes that if she wants to say no she has to do so in a conciliatory, gentle, tactful way, in a way that would take “an amount of effort that was impossible to summon.” And I think that assumption is bigger than Margot and Robert’s specific interaction; it speaks to the way that many women, especially young women, move through the world: not making people angry, taking responsibility for other people’s emotions, working extremely hard to keep everyone around them happy. It’s reflexive and self-protective, and it’s also exhausting, and if you do it long enough you stop consciously noticing all the individual moments when you’re making that choice.
A Viral Short Story for the #MeToo Moment
The depiction of uncomfortable romance in "Cat Person" seems to resonate with countless women.
BBC Trending: Cat Person: The short story people are talking about

I've said it all before.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

See: Tushnet

The distinctions between speech and non-speech, art and non-art, are absurd.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
JUSTICE GINSBURG: --- the question that I started out with, I --- I wanted to clarify that what you're talking about is a custom--made cake. You are not challenging his obligation to sell his ordinary wares, his, as you put it, already--made wares?

MS. WAGGONER: Not at all. And, in fact, Mr. Phillips offered the couple anything in his store, as well as offered to sell additional cakes, custom cakes, that would express other messages.


JUSTICE KAGAN: Ms. Waggoner -­-

JUSTICE GINSBURG: -- you mentioned -­- you brought up Hurley, but in Hurley, the parade was the event. It was the speech, a parade. At a wedding ceremony, I take it, the speech is of the people who are marrying and perhaps the officiant, but who -- who else speaks at a wedding?

MS. WAGGONER: The artist speaks, Justice Ginsburg. It's as much Mr. Phillips's speech as it would be the couples'. And in Hurley [Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc.], the Court found a violation of the compelled speech doctrine.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Who else then? Who else as an artist? Say the --- the person who does floral arranging, owns a floral shop. Would that person also be speaking at the wedding?

MS. WAGGONER: If the --- if they are custom--designed arrangements and they are being forced to create artistic expression which this Court determines is a message --­

JUSTICE KAGAN: So could -­-

JUSTICE GINSBURG: How about the person who designs the invitation?


JUSTICE GINSBURG: Invitation to the wedding or the menu for the wedding dinner?

MS. WAGGONER: Certainly, words and symbols would be protected speech, and the question would be whether the objection is to
the message provided or if it's to the person.

JUSTICE KAGAN: So the jeweler?

MS. WAGGONER: It would depend on the context as all free--speech cases depend on. What is the jeweler asked to do?

JUSTICE KAGAN: Hair stylist?

MS. WAGGONER: Absolutely not. There's no expression or protected speech in that kind of context, but what if --­

JUSTICE KAGAN: Why is there no speech in --- in creating a wonderful hairdo?

MS. WAGGONER: Well, it may be artistic, it may be creative, but what the Court asks when they're -­-

JUSTICE KAGAN: The makeup artist?

MS. WAGGONER: No. What the Court would ask --­

JUSTICE KAGAN: It's called an artist. It's the makeup artist.

MS. WAGGONER: The makeup artist may, again, be using creativity and artistry, but when this Court is looking at whether speech is involved, it asks the question of is it communicating something, and is it analogous to
other protected -­-


MS. WAGGONER: -- forms of speech.

JUSTICE KAGAN: -- I'm quite serious, actually, about this, because, you know, a makeup artist, I think, might feel exactly as your client does, that they're doing something that's of-- of great aesthetic importance to the -- to the wedding and to -- and that there's a lot of skill and artistic vision that goes into making a -- somebody look beautiful. And why -- why wouldn't that person or the hairstylist -- why wouldn't that also count?

MS. WAGGONER: Because it's not speech. And that's the first trigger point -­

JUSTICE KAGAN: Some people may say that about cakes, you know?


JUSTICE KAGAN: But you have a -- you have a view that a cake can be speech because it involves great skill and artistry.
And I guess I'm wondering, if that's the case, you know, how do you draw a line?? How do you decide, oh, of course, the chef and the baker are on one side, and you said, I
think, the florist is on that side, the chef, the baker, the florist, versus the hairstylist or the makeup artist??
I mean, where would you put a tailor, a tailor who makes a wonderful suit of clothes?? Where does that come in?

MS. WAGGONER: Your Honor, the tailor is not engaged in speech, nor is the chef engaged in speech but, again, this Court -­

JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, why -- well -­ woah. The baker is engaged in speech, but the chef is not engaged in speech?

MS. WAGGONER: The test that this Court has used in the past to determine whether speech is engaged in is to ask if it is communicating something, and if whatever is being communicated, the medium used is similar to other mediums that this Court has protected. Not -­-

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Does it depend on -­-

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: So that begs the question, when have we ever given protection to a food? The primary purpose of a food of any kind is to be eaten.
Now, some people might love the
aesthetic appeal of a special desert, and look at it for a very long time, but in the end its only purpose is to be eaten.
And the same with many of the things that you've mentioned. A hairdo is to show off the person, not the artist. When people at a wedding look at a wedding cake and they see words, as one of the amici here, the pastry chef said, there was a gentleman who had upset his wife and written some words that said "II'm sorry for what I did,"" something comparable, and the chef was asked, the cake maker was asked, was that affiliated with you?
And she said no. It's affiliated with the person who shows the cake at their wedding. It's what they wish to show.
So how is this your client's expression, and how can we find something whose predominant purpose is virtually always to be eaten? Call it a medium for expressive expression. Mind you, I can see if they've -­ create a cake and put it in a museum as an example of some work of art, that might be different because the circumstances would show
that they want this to be affiliated with themselves.
But explain how that becomes expressive speech, that medium becomes expressive speech.

MS. WAGGONER: Certainly not all cakes would be considered speech, but in the wedding context, Mr. Phillips is painting on a blank canvas. He is creating a painting on that canvas that expresses messages, and including words and symbols in those messages.
-"Certainly not all cakes would be considered speech"

-"You are not challenging his obligation to sell his ordinary wares, his, as you put it, already--made wares?

MS. WAGGONER: Not at all. And, in fact, Mr. Phillips offered the couple anything in his store, as well as offered to sell additional cakes, custom cakes, that would express other messages."