All posts for the month January, 2003

T’Was Ever Thus – Interesting from Seb, a reference to Richard Rorty, via Dave Weinberger, via Mitch Ratcliffe that there are very few if any new problems that previous generations have not already recognised. I’ve blogged several times “It was ever thus” and “Nothing new under the sun” over the years, most recently in connection with US Philosopher William Barrett.

Even more interestingly, Barrett makes the very point – in the concluding chapter “The Place of the Furies” of his “Irrational Man” – that recognising “it was ever thus” is itself as old as philosophy; quoting Karl Jaspers citing an anonymous 4000 year old Egyptian philosopher, and Ortega y Gasset citing the Latin poet Horace. Current issues always look more problematic than those of our ancestors, but they were always pretty much the same problems.

I’ve probably displayed more than a little skepticism from time to time, even a general lack of respect, for our cousins across the Atlantic. Despite a string of important US pragmatist philosophers in the latter half of the last century, US society as a whole does seem to be the most extreme manifestation of the western rationality “conspiracy”. I finished reading Williams Barrett’s “Irrational Man” which, as I blogged earlier and which the contemporary sleeve notes reinforce, remains poignant at the start of the new century considering it was written in 1958. So good I think I’ll post a full review in the coming week. After a review of existentialist philosophy, he concludes with a passionate summary of his opinions of the ills of US society in the days of mass communications, and paranoia about a threat from the east (1958 remember). A thoroughly recommended read.

I scribbled “Stupid White Men” in the margins on more than one occasion – which is spooky, because I’ve just returned from a trip to Houston where the guy in the seat in front on the flight out was reading Michael Moore’s book. In fact he was standing in line at US Immigration flagrantly continuing to read it, and I couldn’t help thinking if might not be a hanging offence to do so at Bush International Airport in the land of Dubya. Anyway, he survived to read another day.

The Irrational Economist ? Article by Peter Monaghan in the Chronicle of Higher Education [via Jorn]. Making economics look like a mathematical science is a con trick. All part of the “rational conspiracy”. [Quote] The orthodoxy also distorts economic reality, say its critics. “Superficially, it seems like a coherent model of the world,” says Mr. Keen, the author of Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences. But don’t be fooled, he says, by the mainstream’s fancy mathematics and claims that it is a predictive science, not just a descriptive social science. [Unquote], and more from Deirdre McCloskey blogged earlier. Several good source references in this article.

“The quantity of journalism the modern age has turned out in the process of its own self-analysis, already overflows our archives and, were it not that most of it were doomed to perish, would be a dull burden to hand down to our descendants. Communication makes possible the [] instantaneous conveying of news from one point on the globe to another. We are still pretty much in ignorance [of true knowledge], and most of the comtemporary world is caught up in an unconscious act and gigantic conspiracy to run away from these facts. Man is willing to learn about himself only after some disaster. What he learns has always been there [and] it is no less true for having come out of a period of chaos and disaster.”

Modern world ? Contemporary world ? Blogging post 9/11 ?

Well no, 1958 actually, written by US philosopher William Barrett in “The Irrational Man – A Study in Existentialist Philosophy” reflecting on the state of philosophy and knowledge post two world wars, in the shadow of the atomic age. (Very busy right now, but had to blog that reference – No relation to Wild Willie I presume ?).