Proposing a Casual Seminar

Richard Cocks and I have proposed to ourselves a summer reading project on the linked topics of aesthetics and kallistics.  We invite interested parties to join us, if they like.  The reading-list consists of four items chosen because of their germaneness to the two topics, but also because they are relatively short and mainly accessible to non-specialists, such as the two of us.  I give these four titles in the order in which we propose to read them. –

W. F. Hegel: Lectures on Aesthetics (1818)

 Plotinus: On Intellectual Beauty (circa 250 AD)

 Friedrich Schiller: Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1794)

 Plotinus: On the Three Initial Hypostases (circa 250 AD)

The curriculum is plastic.  Richard and I plan to have read Hegel’s Lectures by the middle of June.  We will write up a short summary of our discussion to be posted at The Orthosphere, with an invitation to comment.  We plan to have read Plotinus’ On Intellectual Beauty by the end of June, and so on, encompassing Schiller’s Letters and Plotinus’ On the Three Initial Hypostases, which is, notwithstanding its odd-sounding name, also concerned with beauty.

It strikes both Richard and me that beauty is central to the Traditional view of “life, the universe, and everything.”  It strikes us both that beauty is increasingly under attack in the postmodern dispensation, which either denies its existence or declares it to belong to the institutions of oppression.  We believe therefore that a concerted introductory study of aesthetics and kallistics will be useful to those who participate, especially insofar as it results in a better understanding of beauty as an objective and integral element or character in the order of being and the structure of reality.

The titles given above in bold green typescript are links to online versions of the four items.  I will be reading Hegel and Schiller in the convenient Penguin editions (in English translation); Richard will probably be reading Plotinus, as will I, again in the Penguin edition of the Enneads, in the translation by Stephen McKenna and B.S. Page.  The Penguin edition, while no longer in print, is easily available in second-hand copies.

 

Femmesplaining in the Second Reality

“When gnostic experience is consolidated, the social raw material is ready for existential representation by a leader.  [….]  Such people will prefer each other’s company to that of the rest of the world, they will voluntarily accept counsel and direction from indoctrinators, they will neglect their own affairs, and they will extend generous material aid to the leaders of the movement.  An especially important function in formation of such societies will have women, because they are weak in judgment, emotionally more accessible, tactically well placed to influence husbands, children, servants, and friends, more inclined than men to serve as a kind of intelligence officer concerning the state of affections in their circle, and more liberal in financial aid.

“Once a social environment of this type is organized, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to break it up by persuasion.  […]  They are impermeable to argument and have their answers well drilled.  […]  In brief: The attitude is psychologically iron-clad and beyond shaking by argument.”

For the Gnostic: “Social evils cannot be reformed by legislation; defects of government machinery cannot be repaired by changes of the constitution; differences of opinion cannot be settled by compromise. ‘This world’ is darkness that must give way to the new light. Hence coalition governments are impossible.  The political figures of the old order cannot be re-elected in the new world; and the men who are not members of the movement will be deprived of their right to vote in the new order.”

Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics (1952), Chapter 5, “Gnostic Revolution”

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Tips for Parenting

Obedience Training

Why worry about obedience? In some cases it is a matter of life and death. Do not run into traffic. Do not stick objects into power outlets. Do not touch burners or pull pots of boiling water onto your self. But there is also the matter of just day to day items like getting up, getting dressed, having breakfast, lunch, dinner, music practice, bathing and bed time. Having arguments about things that happen multiple times a day, every day, is a pointless, painful waste of everybody’s time.

When my son was young, perhaps around nine, we had some visitors. I told my son it was time to go to bed and he took himself off. One of the visitors was astounded and commented “you didn’t have a half hour argument!” I remember thinking – “That sounds awful! That would be a daily occurrence.”

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The President and Professor Woke

I recently had occasion to mock the program of a “mini-conference” in our Department of Philosophy, which promised us lectures on “the black penis” as “the organ of non-being” and “institutional anti-Black misandry” (here).  The moving force behind that conference was, very likely, Dr. Tommy Curry, an associate professor who specializes in Critical Race Theory, Africana Philosophy, Anti-Colonial Economic Thought, Colonial Sexuality Studies, etc.  Dr. Curry is this morning squirming under the bright lights of official censure for comments he made in a radio interview nearly five years ago.  Continue reading

Now Fire the Whiners

According to Politico 

The news of FBI director James Comey’s firing struck like a thunderclap at field offices around the country, where agents heard first from TV or the internet that their boss had been dismissed by President Donald J. Trump.

“I’m literally in tears right now. That’s all I have to say,” said a longtime special agent who’s known and worked with Comey for years, who first heard the news on the car radio.

I say: Please, Mr. President, fire that tear-eyed “special agent.”  Fire all tear-eyed agents of whatever sort.  The polity needs weepy G-men about as much as the Marine Corps needs interpretive jazz dancers.

Vagaries of Welcome

Welcome, Basil, my friend!  Come, take thy place on the settle
Close by the chimney-side, which is always empty without thee.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline, 1847

We give voice to an oxymoron when we say that “anyone is welcome,” for the word “anyone” does not comport with the word “welcome.”  Welcome is simply not the sort of thing that we can say to anyone, since the word bears discrimination in its bones. Continue reading

Truth versus the Crowd in the Work of René Girard

Girard Excellent Photo-Portrait

Born in Avignon in 1923, the late René Girard (deceased 2015) trained in Paris during the German occupation of France as a specialist curator of medieval documents; beginning in 1949 he taught in the USA as a professor-generalist in history. He would eventually arrive at a fundamental insight regarding human nature that puts him on the level with the most profound anthropological thinkers in the Western or any other tradition. The road to this insight reached across a decade and required a change of scholarly interest. Girard first made his name, after switching his scholarly focus and obtaining a doctorate in French Literature at Indiana University in 1958, as a literary critic, with his study of vanity and resentment in prose narrative called, in French, Mensonge Romantique et Vérité Romanesque (1962). Deceit Desire & the Novel studies the authorial obsession with the genesis of misery in the tendency of the human subject to acquire his desires from what he takes to be the desire, or object-of-desire, of another person. Novelistic protagonists indeed imagine that absolute being, seemingly denied to them, resides embodied in the other person so that the subject wants and attempts to become that other person. Girard had discovered in the novelists the non-originality of desire. He had also discovered—or rather, the novelists had discovered—a complex psychology and a related oblique rhetoric, the Mensonge Romantique or “Romantic Lie” of the French original, that systematically deny this non-originality of desire and claim the complete, yet miserable, sufficiency of the ego. Even more simply, Girard had discovered the centrality of mimesis or “imitation” in psychology and culture.

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