« This and That and Weekend Open Thread | Main | Impeach the Senate! »

May 28, 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I read Loomis' post too. I think you're both right; I agree with your critique of pseudo-scientific reductionism, but I also think he's right that the academy is under unrelenting attack from the right and the top 0.01%. Universities are one of the few institutions left that aren't under the control of corporations (though they're increasing their influence there too, e.g. by the type of research they fund), so they're an obvious target.

Meanwhile, we're awaiting furloughs here. My husband and I both work for the DOD, and we've been told to expect to be furloughed one day a week starting in July. Lots of people are very worried about their finances as a consequence. God I hate the Republicans. Speaking of which, what do you think of Obama's throwing down the gauntlet on the DC Circuit nominations? Chait had a good blog post on that today. This may be the most important fight of his whole administration, since his ability to enforce climate change regulations via the EPA probably will hang on changing the composition of that court. In my view this is a good move, if long overdue.

Eric Wilde

Oh bother. It looks like my last comment didn't make it through on this thread.

Well, I won't type it all again. Suffice it to say I found Wieseltier's piece complete poppycock and utterly unmoving. Lots of baseless claims about an insipid soul at the heart of our technological culture. Nonsense. Knowledge is not reduced to data and the difficult questions of philosophy are not lost upon those who orchestrate's today's technological marvels.

Sir Charles

I want to reply to Eric later, but right now just testing to see if comments are okay.

Eric Wilde

I see your comment, and am eagerly awaiting a sparring match. Fair warning, the scotch is out on the table for tonight as I've just succeeded in a major task at work. :^)


Eric and Sir C -- I look forward to reading your exchange.

Meanwhile, here's another factor to consider: Why Philosophy Students Do the Most Drugs . Uh oh. Better not let that get out to state legislatures looking to kill some more humanities. Because I'd guess it's also music, art, lit, and all the rest of the not-STEM collegians *recreating*.

Plus Canadians. :)

Eric Wilde


As a Philosophy major for undergrad work, I can corroborate this article.

low-tech cyclist

On a completely different subject, I think the Boy Scouts are to be commended for allowing gay Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. I hear all the bitching that they still don't allow gay adult leaders, but I think this was as far as they could move right now.

Sure, the implication of it being OK to be gay and be a Boy Scout is that it's OK to be gay and be a Boy Scout troop leader. But people don't move at the speed of logic, and to a lot of people in the world of Scouting, going overnight from 'gay is unacceptable' to having gay leaders is too big a jump. This is the intermediate step. In a few years, it will look silly even to most of the people in Scouting to have stopped here, and they'll take that last step.

I have no idea whether my son will ever be interested in becoming a Cub Scout or a Boy Scout, but at least now if he does, I won't have to explain to him why I'd rather he not join.

Sir Charles


I don't think Wieseltier was attacking people working in technology or technology itself. I think he was attacking a couple of things -- one, the notion that technology can solve the problems of being human and two, the sometimes insidious impact of living with a screen ever present in your life. I think he is talking about technology boosters like Friedman and the kind of callow world view that is associated with Silicon Valley big wigs like Zuckerberg.




>>reducing the world to game theory and genes does more harm than enabling capitalists<<
Good point, SC, but who says studying one negates an understanding of the other?
I went to UMCP and St. John's College. Could there any schools more opposite in mission? I learned to think at St. J's, but developed the details of craft at Maryland. If we are going to be whole people, we need exposure to both types of training, don't you think? If I had it to do over, I would go to the same or similar schools, but would probably major in microbiology and/or public health.

Eric Wilde

The scotch got the better of me and I fell asleep early last night.

The thing is, I see no evidence that technology billionaires like Zuckerberg are substantially more callow than their non-techie counterparts like the Kochs or the Robber Barons of the past. Moreover, I don't know anyone who says that technology can solve the "problems of being human" (however ill-defined that might be); rather, technology can solve problems that afflict humans and change what it means to be human.

Sure, an education in the humanities can be fulfilling to a person on many levels. I chose a liberal arts education at university as well. But that didn't seem to be the thrust of what Wieseltier meant. All Wieseltier seems to be doing is railing against a technological world that unsettles him for no valid reason, and attacking straw men without basis.


Anyone who "reduc[es] the world to game theory and genes" doesn't understand either.


Anyone who "reduc[es] the world to game theory and genes" doesn't understand either.

Thank you. :)


We've been through a number of elections, crises, other ups and downs over the past decade but I've not seen anything like the drop in interest over the past few months. If it was just me I'd attribute it to my little project having run its course but it's happening across the liberal media spectrum. I don't now what the answer is, but it isn't that there isn't a permanent audience. There was until very recently. It's that the liberal audience is tuning out and one can only assume it's because they don't like what they see in our politics. That's Digby, in her entry titled "Liberal Retreat" about the wind-out-of-the-sails-lull she observes on the left, even in the blogosphere.

More at TAP.

Apparently I'm not alone in a recent need to tune out, although I view it more as saving some semblance of sanity in the middle of all the childish GOPer racket, and the administration's seeming inability to confine them. Closer to home [and not figuratively], I'm out of patience as I watch a good many college-educated twenty-somethings, through no fault of their own, being permanently disabled by the economy. Still waiting for our President to notice. The closest he has come seems to be re-iterating that a college education should be available to all, a statement I find vacuous and unhelpful. And just a bit disingenuous, since any number of non-college degreed endeavors are obviously vital to a healthy nation.

Monitored a podcast earlier about the topic of internships, mostly unpaid, and for the first time realized that older students or grads may actually be competing for internships with high-schoolers punching the service-learning ticket for college apps. The drag on these young people is painful to witness -- for graduates in the humanities especially who don't have a myriad of placement people with revolving-door spots on file. Re Wieseltier -- no one has to explicitly devalue the humanities. Universities simply target resources elsewhere and departments wither and students suffer.

Also too. Bon weekend all.


So much for an escape from politics -- smart alecky captcha prompt was "candidate". :)

Sir Charles


Sorry for the slow motion dialogue. I am in the midst of more things professional and personal than I can keep up with.

There is an enormous difference between the Kochs and the Zuckerbergs and Gateses of the world. The Kochs fight a war that is both intensely ideological and, within that framework, highly practical. They focus on cultivating powerful political allies who will deliver for them policies that help enrich them and foster their world view. They also promote ideas in the political culture via organizations like Cato that help their businesses while altering terms of debate. Their politics are pernicious, but they are rooted deeply in the reality of power and how to use it. They are understand that problems are not technical in nature, but rather a Hobbesian struggle to dictate the terms of the game.

I think the Silicon Valley types are just the opposite of this. They view problems as technical in nature and subject to managerial style solutions. Strangely enough people who wield power incredibly effectively and fiercely within their own milieu are naive about -- or too arrogant -- to care. None of them are attempting anything like what the Kochs are doing -- both because they lack patience and a guiding ideology to steer them. They want to moose technocratic solutions on complex problems like education without doing any kind of political groundwork. They just know better than every one else.

Sir Charles


I was thinking about doing a post on the very subject that Digby raised. I am suffering profoundly from it right now. In addition to myriad things grabbing at my time, I am also grappling with incredible fatigue about politics.

This is in some ways what the right does. They just wear you down with their intransigence.

That coupled with the idiocy of the MSM and the fecklessness of the Dems can wear a person out.

Eric Wilde

Sir C,

So there is a difference in the goals and effectiveness of different players on the right. No surprise that those who focus more on messaging and politics (the Kochs) are more effective at it.

Where I take umbrage is the railing against a technological and scientific approach to the world. Sure, there are other things needed to make society function than science alone can solve; but to suggest that there is **too much** practical thinking or technological based solutions is ludicrous. We need more belief in science, not less.

Take as examples the constant drumbeat of austerity against the factual data, continued refutations against the science of climate change, abuse of scientific evidence by creationists, the proud claims by our elected (Republican) representatives that they are not scientists and don't understand science. To complain that technology and science rule supreme and must be combatted by the arts is counterproductive as well as just dead wrong.

The comments to this entry are closed.