From Maverick Philosopher: Zero Tolerance and the Death of Common Sense.
Saturday May 7, was philosopher David Hume’s 300th birthday. He’s dead, of course.
From the New York Times:
Hume was most concerned with the nature of knowledge, morality, causality — not with fashioning a philosophy for everyday life. And yet his life, like his work, does offer insights about how to live. Consider an episode in Hume’s life that reflected his most provocative and misunderstood claim: that reason is and always will be the slave to our passions….
David Hume, famous scolder of those who would derive “ought” from “is,” was born 300 years ago today. In point of fact Hume, while not enjoying the name recognition of Plato/Aristotle/Descartes/Kant, is certainly in the running for greatest philosopher of all time. He was a careful thinker, resistant to dogmatic answers, and a relatively sprightly writer as philosophers go. An empiricist who was as persuasive about the temptations of radical epistemological skepticism as anyone, but was still able to resist them….
A recent Washington Post opinion piece by Michael Gerson called, Ayn Rand’s adult-onset adolescence takes her and the new movie, Atlas Shrugged Part 1, to task, but with a reasonable conclusion. Conservative John Andrews also has a balanced review of the movie with his ‘Atlas’ Movie is Stirring But Overly Messianic, suggesting that we’ve had enough of that messianic stuff recently. Liberal Roger Ebert, of course, gave it only one star.
My title owes a thanks to richard40, a commenter on a post titled Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years, by Mary Grabar, found at Books, Inq. titled Rhetoric as performance. Here’s the first paragraph:
After spending four depressing days this month at a meeting of 3,000 writing teachers in Atlanta, I can tell you that their parent group, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, is not really interested in teaching students to write and communicate clearly. The group’s agenda, clear to me after sampling as many of the meeting’s 500 panels as I could, is devoted to disparaging grammar, logic, reason, evidence and fairness as instruments of white oppression. They believe rules of grammar discriminate against marginalized groups and restrict self-expression.
It gets worse. Read the whole piece plus the comments; and here’s Dr. Grabar’s last sentence:
That administrators and paying customers at respectable colleges and universities continue to support such daffy activities should be the subject of some real “critical thought.”
Frank Wilson’s column at When Falls the Coliseum provides some brief but thoughtful commentary on the nature of God, implying that God is other than we are, hardly the modern progressive view. In a world seemingly committed to philosophical materialism, religious fundamentalism, or pantheistic humanitarianism, it’s difficult to even have a conversation—kudos to Frank for shedding some light.
And I liked this C.S. Lewis quote: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
“We live in a secular age, a period of dim understanding when it is a virtual blasphemy to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or put up a Nativity crèche. This is the kind of desperate self-consciousness and hideous circumspection that indicates how morally weak we are, farcically overconsidered, foppishly irrational. We live in a period when religion itself seems not even spiritual, when simonists on television are trying to make money selling God and halfwits are burning Korans and ordained priests are pedophiles. We live in a time of supreme scruple. Pusillanimous. Tentative. Hesitant. Uncertain. Weak. Fearful. Cringing…
“St. Paul who unambiguously offers us life of Christ and salvation is not the fidgety neurotic button-twisting sort of herbert we now see everywhere, not only the toadying, listless, graft-ridden, indecisive nest-featherers and eunuchs that constitute most if not all U.S. Congress but even in our presidents…
“It is only when we get serious that we can grow. ‘When I was a child,’ St. Paul wrote, ‘I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.’ I offer this piece not as a means of conversion but as a plea for the virility of reason….”
In 1998, Virginia Postrel published her compelling book, The Future and it’s Enemies, the Growing Conflict over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress. It offered a new way of describing the political landscape, escaping the trite left and right memes (which unfortunately, never seem to go away). The linked book review was written by philosophy professor Kelly L. Ross and is found at his remarkable philosophy website, The Proceedings of the Fresian School. I cannot improve on his comprehensive review. I will, however, offer a brief summery taken from the book and Ross’ review: