Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reworking the last post:
Panofsky should be required reading for anyone in the social sciences, but I haven't met one academic in 20 years whom I could trust to understand the basic premises of humanism as described in those paragraphs. The vast majority of people take such questions for granted, without articulating them. We know this because they spend so much time and money watching and listening to others who do so: in music, movies and words (fiction). But many who spend their lives in the academy think they're irrelevant to higher learning, an indulgence, or at worst an invitation to unreason.

Economics as a humanist endeavor is the study of the weakness and frailty of the human imagination. As a "science" it becomes a celebration of the human capacity for reason: the reason of the observer. But reason trumps observation. Read economics as synecdoche for the social sciences. You can't will away the conflict, but the modern academy is dedicated to trying.
So obviously I find it disgusting but predictable that the liberal technocrats' model intellectual Paul Krugman spends his off hours in a science fiction fan club. It's what Krugman and Newt Gingrich have in common: a fondness for vulgar determinism.

The difference between an art that removes you from yourself and one that takes you somewhere else, intact, is the difference between an art of observation and an art of illustration, an art of frailty and an art of overarching authority. The fun and lie of John Carter Warlord of Mars, is that you are John Carter. The interest and truth of Anna Karenina is that you aren't. Pulp fiction is fantasy, and yet fantasy is the poetry of choice for the faculty of the modern social sciences. It fits the fantasy they have of themselves as engineers of humanity. Observation is often the observation of tragedy, but building is optimistic and "creative." The art of creativity is the art of invention and optimism. It's the art of "design" that when joined to wishful thinking is what in retrospect we call kitsch.

Art read observed or listened to seriously, whether made for that purpose or not is not read observed or listened to as fantasy but as philosophy. It is the observation and description of the world no more or less than the words of Plato, Aristotle, or Kant.
Economics as a humanist endeavor is the study of the weakness and frailty of the human imagination. As a "science" it becomes a celebration of the human capacity for reason: the reason of the observer. But reason trumps observation.
The observer refuses to observe himself. And unaware of himself, he becomes unaware when his reason has become the unreason that he fears so much in others. Wisdom requires both invention and observation. Machines, whether physical or logical, don't observe.

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