Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Value-- and the Values-- of the Humanities

Thurgood Marshall:

This is unfortunate, not the patriotism itself, but the tendency for the celebration to oversimplify and overlook the many other events that have been instrumental to our achievements as a nation. The focus of this celebration invites a complacent belief that the vision of those who debated and compromised in Philadelphia yielded the “more perfect Union” it is said we now enjoy.

I cannot accept this invitation, for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever “fixed” at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite “The Constitution,” they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.

We must be careful, when focusing on the events which took place in Philadelphia two centuries ago, that we not overlook the momentous events which followed, and thereby lose our proper sense of perspective. Otherwise, the odds are that for many Americans the bicentennial celebration will be little more than a blind pilgrimage to the shrine of the original document now stored in a vault in the National Archives. If we seek, instead, a sensitive understanding of the Constitution's inherent defects, and its promising evolution through 200 years of history, the celebration of the “Miracle at Philadelphia” will, in my view, be a far more meaningful and humbling experience.

Judith Butler:

What one means by “the universal” will vary, and the cultural articulation of the term in its various modalities will work against precisely the trans-cultural status of the claim.  This is not to say that there ought to be no reference to the universal or that it has become, for us, an impossibility. On the contrary. All this means is that there are cultural conditions for articulation which are not always the same, and the term gains its meaning for us precisely through the decidedly less-than-universal cultural conditions of its articulation. This is a paradox that any injunction to adopt a universal attitude will encounter.

It may be that in one culture a set of rights are considered to be universally endowed, and that in another those very rights mark the limit to universalizability, i.e., “if we grant those people those rights we will be undercutting the foundations of the universal as we know it.” This has become especially clear to me in the field of lesbian and gay human rights where “the universal” is a contested term, and where various cultures and various mainstream human rights groups voice doubt over whether lesbian and gay humans ought properly to be included in “the human” and whether their putative rights fit within the existing conventions governing the scope of rights considered universal. 

It may be that the universal is only partially articulated, and that we do not yet know what form it will take. In this sense, the contingent and cultural character of the existing conventions governing the scope of universality does not deny the usefulness or importance of the term “universal.” It simply means that the claim of universality has not yet received a full or final articulation and that it remains to be seen how and whether it will be articulated further.

William Deresiewicz:

In literary studies in particular, the last several decades have witnessed the baleful reign of “Theory,” a mash-up of Derridean deconstruction, Foucauldian social theory, Lacanian psychoanalysis and other assorted abstrusiosities, the overall tendency of which has been to cut the field off from society at large and from the main currents of academic thought, not to mention the common reader and common sense. 


     FB:  I thought gay people were good and deserved marriage licenses!
     JD: That's probably because of your treacherous liberal education. It's brainwashed you into thinking that there is no right and wrong, that everyone deserves equal rights, and that the fossil record accurately represents the geological and biological history of the earth. If our society continues to slide down this slippery slope of moral relativism, it will mean the end of Western Civilization.
     FB: Oh no! Not Western Civilization! That's where all my friends live!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Not Again!

Jeez, you'll fall for this old "read the whole thing" trick every time, won't you? No, there is no transcript of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck debating this call on Wittgensteinian grounds. Really, there isn't. I made it all up.

Why? Because I'm in St. Louis and recovering from a nasty cold and I had nothing better to do.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Blogging in the Future!

See, I told you it was possible!

My, everything is so clear now that it's April 27, 2022. I'm glad all that nonsense from back in 2007 got straightened out!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Harriet Miers in Retrospect

Greetings, my friends, we are all interested in the future, because that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, future events such as these will affect you in the future!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

In other future news

Welcome, all you readers looking for future news not related to Harriet Miers!

The South American populist revolution of the late 20th and early 21st century finally took root in the United States in 2020, abolishing the Electoral College, establishing proportional-representation voting for all nonexecutive electoral contests, and bringing agrarian reform to California.

You can learn more about agrarian reform in the United States by Future-Googling Secretary of the Interior Christopher Clarke.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Inexpensive champagne shipped directly to your home!

Thanks to the heroic efforts of President John Edwards and Vice-President Tucker Carlson, who, not content with the nationalizing of the United States' energy industry and the de-nationalizing of Fox News, signed legislation in early 2026 enabling every American to order Freixenet and Korbel online.

Edwards' and Carlson's landslide 77-23 defeat of Jenna and Barbara Bush in 2028 was widely credited to their catchy campaign slogan, "Re-Elect Edwards/ Carlson -- It's Smooth Sailing Now."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Nicodeman Ethics

Yes, yes, I know there's no such thing as the Nicodeman Ethics and the twelve kinds of wrongness. It's the Nicomachean Ethics and twelve types of virtue. But I got it wrong, see? That's the joke! Ha ha ha ha.

All right, I'm going away now.