Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Immanuel Kant looked forward to a future in which humanity would no longer be burdened with the curse of nonage (Unmündigkeit), which he defined broadly as encompassing the various types of restriction and unfreedom that afflict us, whether maintained by law or custom. Alas, most of us are a long ways from attaining that happy state of independent judgment and action.
One of the defects of libertarianism is that it assumes that such freedom is generally attainable; yet it is not. An appeal to reason, such as it is, will not guarantee responsible behavior.
In the US at least, libertarianism has also failed because getting elected and reelected means impersonating Santa Claus, promising lots of "free stuff."  Alas, it is not free, for the bribes use money taxed from citizens, either in the present or the future.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Changing interests

The contrast of the fox and the hedgehog is a reference to a fragment attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: πόλλ' οἶδ' ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ' ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα ("a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing"). The contrast is the subject of a famous essay by Isaiah Berlin. At any rate in the range of my intellectual interests I am very much a fox.
Once I made a list of almost 100 such interests, though some are dormant now. The living ones range from ancient Egypt to 20th-century abstract painting. Lately I have developed a passion for the older noir films - easily satisfied through the presentations on Turner Classics.
Why do some interests decline and then fade away? I used to follow Pre-Columbian archaeology closely, but now that i no longer make regular visits to see the sites, the books on this subject - I have quite a few - stare back at me in their neglect. For most of my teaching career I taught medieval art, but of late I have become weary of medieval studies, which are now riven with ideological disputes about whether they are racist or not. I would just as soon skip this stuff. And when gay studies got taken over by queer theory I pretty much shipped out.

As a rule I am drawn to subjects because I see - or saw - some positive value in them.  But not entirely.  Once upon a time I followed the Manson case because it seemed to say something about those turbulent times. But as we entered calmer waters my interest faded. Still, I suppose that cults and their gurus are a continuing but sporadic interest, going back to my stepfather's naive involvement in Dianetics, which later morphed into Scientology.