Sunday, May 11, 2008

Excerpts: The Closing of the American Mind

I have just finished reading the book by Allan Bloom entitled The Closing of the American Mind, and yes, it is rather dated, but the arguments against the New Liberalism are still valid. This book shows how the irrational, anti-logical nihilistic anti-philosophy of Friedrich Nietzshe and Martin Heidderger (early 20th century) paved the way for the near total collapse of Western culture and liberal education, and hints at its further workings through the emergence of its logical outflow, Postmodernism (cf Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida) in the late 20th century. Society then virtually self-destructs in our modern age as the poison of Postmodernism corrodes the entire society from the inside out. Allan Bloom himself is not a Christian though, and he obviously does not think too highly of religion (but of course he thinks more highly of them then the secularists do). In older times, Bloom would be considered a (Old-time) Liberal, but with the rise of the Nietzscheanized Left, he is considered a Conservative, maybe even at the Right.

Nevertheless, let us proceed with some of the very interesting quotes from this bok of his.

[On the influence of early 20th century German philosophy in America, and through them the world]

I do not believe any of these professors noticed the darker side of Freud and Weber, let alone the Nietzsche-Heidegger extremism lying beneath the surface. Or rather, if they did notice, they found it of autobiographical rather than scientific interest. It is amazing to me that the irrational source of all conscious life in Freud, and the relativity of all values in Weber, did not pose a problem for them and their optimism about science. Freud was very dubious about the future of civilization and the role of reason in the life of man. He certainly was not a convinced advocate of democracy or equality. And Weber, much more thoughtful than Freud about science, morals and politics, lived in an atmosphere of permanent tragedy. His science was formulated as a doubtful dare against the chaos of things, and values certainly lay beyond its limits. This is what the very precarious, not to say imaginery, distinction between facts and value meant. Reason in politics leads to the inhumanity of bureaucracy. ... Calculating reaons would end up in dried-up, heatless and souless administration of things without community-forming and sustaining values; feelings would lead to selfish indulgence in superficial pleasures; political commitment would likely foster fanaticism, and it was questionable whether there was enough value-positing energy left in man. Everything was up in the air, and there was no theodicy to substain him in his travail. Weber, along with many others in Germany under Nietzsche's influence, saw that all that we care was threatened by his insight and that we were without intellectual or moral resources to govern the outcome. We require values, which in turn require a perculiar huamn creativity that is drying up and in any event has no cosmic support. Scientific analysis itself concludes that reason is powerless, while dissolving the protective horizon within which men can value. None of this is perculiar to Weber or comes simply from his distressed personality, which he had at least partly because of the blea perspective that lay before him. There is no doubt that value relativism, if it is true and it is believed in, taes one into very dark regions of the soul and very dangerous political experiments. But on enchanted American ground the tragic sense has little place, and the early proponents of the new social science gaily accepted the value insight, sure that their values were just fine, and went ahead with science. ... Suddenly a new generation that had not lived off inherited value fat, that had not been educated in philosophic and scientific indifference to good and evil, came on the street representing value commitment and taught their elders a most unpleasant lesson.

[Notice the link to the late great debauched Weimar Republic; precursor to Nazi Germany]

The image of this astonishing Americanization of the German pathos can be seen in the smiling face of Loius Armstrong as he belts out the words of his great hit "Mack the Knife". As most Amerian intellectuals know, it is a translation of the song "Makie Messer" from The Threepenny Opera, a monument of Weimar Republic popular culture, written by two heroes of the artistic Left, Bertolt Brecht and Jurt Weill. There is a strange nostalgia among many of the American intelligentsia for this moment just prior to Hitler's coming to power, and Lotte Lenya's rendition of this song has long stood with Marlene Dietrich's singing "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt" [It is a tad bit erotic in German] in the Blue Angel as the symbol of a charming, neurotic, sexy, decadent longing for some hazy fulfilment not quite present to the consciousness. Less known to our intelligentsia is an aphorism in Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, a book well known to Brecht, entitled "On the Pale Criminal", which tells the story of a neurotic murderer, eerily resembling Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, who does not know, cannot know, that he committed murder out of a motive as legitimate as any other and useful in many important situations, but delegitimized in our pacific times: he lusted after "the joy of the knife". This scenario for "Mack the Knife" is the beginning of the supra-moral attitude of expectancy, waiting to see what the volcano of the id will spew forth, which appealed to Weimar and is American admirers. Everything is all right as long as it is not fascism! With Armstrong taking Lenya's place, as Mai Britt took Dietrich's, it is all mass marketed and the message becomes less dangerous, although no less corrupt [Perverse is the better word]. (pp. 150-152)

...

[Hypocrisy of the Nietzsheanized Left]

Here again we live with two cotradictory understandings of what counts for man. One tells us what is important is what all men have in common; the other that wat men have in common is low, while what they have from separate cultures give them their depth and their interest. Both agree that life, liberty, and the persuit of property, i.e. the interests of health and preservation, are what men share. The difference between them is the weight they give to being French or Chinese, Jewish or Catholic, or the rank order of these particuilar cultures in relation to the natural needs of the body. One is cosmopolitan, the other is particularistic. Human rights are connected with one school, respect for other cultures with the other. Sometimes the United States is attacked for failing to promote human rights; sometimes for wanting to impose "the American way of life" on all people without respect for their cultures. To the extent that it does the latter, the United States does so in the name of self-evident truths that apply to the good of all men. But its critics argue that there are no such truths, that they are prejudices of American culture [Yes, I am sure THAT view is an American prejudice also]. On the other hand, the Ayatollah was initially supported by some here because he represented true Iranian culture. Now he is attacked for violating human rights. What he does is in the name of Islam. His critics insist that there are universal principles that limit the rights of Islam. When the critics of the U.S. in the name of culture, and of the Ayatollah in the name of human rights, are the same persons, which they often are, they are persons who want to eat their cake and have it, too.

Why, it might be asked, can't there be a respect for both human rights and culture? Simply because a culture itself generates its own way of life and principles, particularly its highest ones, with no authority above it. If there were such an authority, the unique way of life born of its principle would be undermined. The idea of culture was understood to be the shallow and dehumanizing universality of rights based on our animal nature. The folk mind takes the place of reason. ... (pp. 191-192)

...

[More inconsistency in New Liberalism]

It is Nietzsche's merit that he was aware that to philosophize is radically problematic in the cultural, historicist dispensation. He recognized the terrible intellectual and moral risks involved. At the center of every thought was the question "How is it possible to do what I am doing?" He tried to apply his own thought the teachings of cultural relativism. This practically nobody does. For example, Freud says that men are motivated by desire for sex and power, but he did not apply those motives to explain his own science or his own scientific activity. But if can be a true scientist, i.e. motivated by love of the truth, so can other men, and his desciption of their motives is thus morally flawed. Or if he is motivated by sex and power, he is not a scientist, and his science is only one means among many possible to attain those ends. This contradiction runs throughout the natural and social sciences. They give an account of things that cannot possibly explain the conduct of their practitioners. The highly ethical economist who spaks only about gain, the public-spirited political scientist who sees only group interest, the physicist who signs petitions in favor of freedom while recognizing only unfreedom — mathematical law governing moved matter — in the universe are symptomatic of the difficulty of providing a self-explanation for science and a ground for the theoretical life, which has dogged the life of the mind since early modernity but has become particularly acute with cultural relativism. (pp. 203-204)

...

[Beginning of irrationalism and the slide into Post-Modernism]

... Up to Nietzsche, the neglect of and contempt for Plato and Aristotle was the result of a belief that what they tried to do could be done much better. That is why Socrates was always in good repute. He was the skeptical seeker after the way to knowledge by means of unaided reason. He was not tied to any solution or system and thus could be seen as the originator and the inspirer who did not constrain the freedom of posterity. The current contempt for Plato and Aristotle is of an entirely different kind, for it is allied to contempt for Socrates. He corrupted them; they did not pervert him. We did not progress from Socrates, but he marked the beginning of the decline. Reason itself is rejected by philosophy itself. Thus the common thread of the whole tradition has been broken, and with it the raison d'etre of the university as we know it. (p. 311)

...

[On the growing fascism of the Nietzscheanized Left]

[Speaking of the sixties era] ... The fact that in Germany the politics were of the Right and in the United States of the Left should not mislead us. In both places the universities gave way under the pressure of mass movements, and did so in large measure because they thught that those movements possessed a moral truth superior to any the university could provide. ... The New Left in America was a Nietzscheanized-Heideggerianized Left. The unthinking hatred of "burgeious society" was exactly the same in both places. A distinguished professor of political science proved this when he read to his radical students some speeches about what was to be done. They were enthusiastic until he informed them that the speeches were by Mussolini [I guess the expressions on their faces are worth a lot]. ... (p. 315)

...

[Now, let the Liberals eat their own medicine]

[In a 60s Student uprising against the university]... These American professors were utterly disarmed, as were many German professors, when the constituency that they took for granted, of which they honestly believed they were independent, deserted or turned against the. Students and colleagues wanted to radicalize and politicize the university. To fulminate against Bible Belt preachers was one thing. In the world that counted for these professors, this could only bring approval. But to be isolated in the university, to be called foul names by their studnts or their colleagues, all for the sake of an abstract idea, was too much for them [Serve them right for their double standardness!]. They were not in general strong men, althought their easy rhetoric had persuaded them that they were — that they alone manned the walls protecting civilization, Their collapse [capitulation to the demands of the masses; students lording over teachers] was merely pitiful, although their feeble attempts at self-justification frequently turned vicious. ... (p. 318)

The piper would henceforth play the tune called by the students, and they [the students] were not even paying. (p. 327)

...

[The disgraceful behavior of the natural scientists, and the consequences of the error of affirmative action]

... [Natural scientists] are pretty sure of what they are teaching. They cannot deceive themselves that they are teaching science when they are not. They have powerful operational measures of competence. And inwardly they believe, at least in my experience, that the only real knowledge is scientific knowledge. In the dilemma that faced them — mathematicians wanted, for example, to see more black and women hired but could not fnd nearly enough competent ones — they in effect said that the humanists and social scientists should hire them Believing that there are no real standards outside of the natural sciences, they assumed that adjustments could easily be made. With the profoundest irresponsibility, scientists went along with various aspects of affirmative action, assuming, for example, that any minority students admitted without proper qualifications would be taken care of by other departments if they did not do well in sciences. The scientists did not anticipate large-scale failture of such students, with the really terrible consequences that would entail. They took it for granted that these students would succeed somewhere in the university. And they were right. The humanities and social scientists were debauched and grade inflation took off, while the natural sciences remain largely the preserve of white males. Thus the true elitists of the university have been able to stay on the good side of the forces of history without having to suffer any of the consequences. (p. 351)

Hobbes said that if the fact that two and two makes four were to become a matter of political relevance, there would be a faction to deny it. (p. 354)

P.S.: By the way, Freidrich Nietzsche was the one who coined the phrase "God is dead", not to say that God as a person was dead, as some naive Christians may think he though, but that the concept of God and the divine is for all purposes 'dead' in his mind. This of course did not give him a very optimistic view of things, but that's for another time.

12 comments:

Cikgu Screwtape said...

But Bloom is gay, according to his close friend Saul Bellow. Aren't you worried that he's probably in league with your old friends, the Pink Swastika?

~ Edmund

PuritanReformed said...

Edmund:

Obviously you neither know me nor what I am doing. In your mind, you only have two (ok three) categories: those who think like you (your friends), those who are "against you" (your enemies), and those who have nothing whatsoever to do with you. You show your ignorance by not even reading the book The Pink Swastika even though it is available for free online.

And I am not taking your bait. So what if Bloom is gay? Go think about what I am doing instead of splitting everybody into your neat dichotomized groups, and then attack anyone who disagree with you with all kinds of vulgarities and character assassination.

And no, I am not interested in mud-slinging. You can continue attacking me on your blog and I will continue ignoring it, and I hope Vincent will too. When you can behave civilly and in humility, perhaps we will do so. After all, we have better things to do with our precious time. You are not going to get our attention nor are we going to allow you to waste our time nor ruin our moods. Time is too precious to be wasted.

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Daniel,

He wants people to look at his "new" blog after deleting the previous obscene one (good decision, considering the fact that even insane murderers and rapists know how to cover their tracks by eliminating evidence against themselves). By posting comments in our blogs, it helps to redirect traffic to his "new" blog (with "new" slanders against us).

In the previous blog which he had since deleted, he had publicly denounced his faith and called the Bible "trash." So officially, he is an apostate (sorry for being blunt here); I'll call a spoon - a spoon. His posts reek of hatred for the Word, and for those who denounce homosexuality as a sin. Deleting his blog doesn't change anything - we know he is an apostate who hates the Bible. His private "incredible herc" blog is his secret society's meeting place where new plans are hatched from the abyss.

I would not be posting any of his comments (and those "anonymous" comments by his "friends" with funny names like nevin, nike, mickey, monkey et al). His friends don't even have the guts to put their real names there; shows how low they would go.

Why are you even conversing with a man who has dedicated his blog to defame/slander others whom he has no knowledge of?

(PS: I am being very nice here. Have you seen the kind of slander he wrote on his new blog? What a pathological liar.)

And who is the father of lies?

Be angry and sin not - I'll remember that. But I am entitled to be angry.

yours truly,
Vincent

ACE68 said...

"I read a handbook, therefore I am."

This pretty much sums up all your pompous readings. I believe you have never personally engage Nietzche nor actually read any of his books other than what you try to assume from Bloom. That is poor research considering you are a graduate. Of course you claim to ave the truth exclusively, while the rest of the world who disagree with you are damned. Very pharisaic don't you think?

"I read my handbooks, therefore I am"

Get real.

Alvin

Nahum 3v5 said...

Alvin/pltypus

Some have read "handbooks," wrote research papers, engaged journals, read the authors, and graduated from recognized universities with degrees.

What do you have?

Pure talking cock? (chicken brain, and worse, chicken hearted).

Just a bunch of loutish oafs (losers?) patting each other on the backs and saying,"Eh! We better than those who have degrees. Eh! Degree no use. We don't need degrees! Eh! We read our own books, we read Aquaman and Spiderman, and we are now self-awarded PhDs! Eh!"

Envy has no truer color ...

Get yourself a BSc(Hons) too? Can you?

ACE68 said...

Nahum/Daniel
- it makes no difference, still hand book knowledge.

"I read a handbook, therefore I am."

This pretty much sums up all your pompous readings. I believe you have never personally engage Nietzche nor actually read any of his books other than what you try to assume from Bloom. That is poor research considering you are a graduate. Of course you claim to ave the truth exclusively, while the rest of the world who disagree with you are damned. Very pharisaic don't you think?

"I read my handbooks, therefore I am"

Get real.

Alvin

Cikgu Screwtape said...

Hi Daniel,

I pity you. Really.

You are being used by Vincent.

Just the same way that he used Jenson.

You're his stooge and you're proud of it.

How much do you know him?

Wake up, man.

~ Edmund

PuritanReformed said...

Wow, Just went off for about a day and....

Vincent:

Don't worry. Sometimes they expose themselves and auto-destruct. I do not bother to read his blog; no need to give myself high-blood pressure. Anyway, it is self-evident who he is; an apostate.

ace68/Alvin/Platypus:

First off, I am not Nahum; I am not so twisted to get myself an alternative ID just to 'encourage and pat each alternate ID' on the back online. Secondly, I'm sure you haven't read Bloom's books either, nor have you understood Nietzshe, so if you want to continue to metltdown, by all means do so. Your folly is evident to all. The more you say, the more stupid you look to others.

Edmund:

stop your patronizing nonsense. Vincent is my friend, and he is not using me. He is already too kind to you as it were. If I were him, I would not even have bothered to post a link to your former blog in a bid to help you. I would rather have let you wallow in your degenerate sins, especially since I do no know you at all one bit. After all, it is not as if Vincent or me is very free to hear your nonsense.

PuritanReformed said...

Oh, by the way, if anyone wants to post more comments, please engage the book. Any further nonsense, which I have tolerated so far, will be summarily deleted. This is not a free-for-all forum, so unless you want to be constructive, please keep quiet.

Cikgu Screwtape said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cikgu Screwtape said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Daniel,

Now I truly understand the aphorism:

"An idle mind is the devil's workshop."

Dear (Idle) Edmund and Alvin,

I will not publish your comments. Until you have learned basic civility and honesty in making informed comments with integrity, I will delete all your comments - so don't waste your time over at my blog.

Since you are so free, I welcome you to "watch". You can continue slandering me and my friends; do what you want. We do not hate you; we just pity you fellows.

And I also THANK you folks for slandering me. Part of sanctification is learning how to take wrong.

So all in all, I extend my sincere gratitude to you folks for teaching me valuable lessons: if Christ as Savior is crucified for no sin of His, why couldn't we learn to take wrong?

sincerely,
Vincent