Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Assessing Joseph Bottum

The former editor of First Things has created a stir with his tepid - and strategic - endorsement of the idea that same-sex marriage ought not to be fought in the trenches. He sees the Catholic Church's opposition to the idea as ill-tempered and self-defeating. In response, Rusty Reno's reflections of the other day are on the mark in my view (his opinions being important as he is Bottum's successor at FT), but so are the more temperate remarks of Ross Douthat in today's Times.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Creativity: The Missing Element within the contemporary academy

A nice post from Helen deCruz at newapps blog today. Certainly a good antidote to what I see all around me: the tendency to know more and more about less and less, funded to a (now) lesser extent by research grants. All a sad testimony to the current state of university life: no core curricula, students ill prepared to write in coherent English and many ideologically predisposed university programmes that are either geared to bean counting careers or fighting some imaginary emancipatory struggle in a jargon few if any comprehend.

Ok... that's off my chest.

Helen's question about Tolkien is right on the money because his imaginary capacity had as its chief orientation the transcendent as well as the struggle between good and evil, both of which are thought by many inside the contemporary university to be entirely passé. No kidding - I've met faculty and students who speak this way...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Robert Bellah and deconstructionism

A short reference to a tale told here in a FT blog entry on the recent passing of Robert Bellah, sociologist of religion extraordinaire. In this briefest of discussions of Bellah's work and influence, a telling description of a conversation Bellah had with one of his grad students. Here is that excerpt:

There is a deep and keen moral sense in his work that deserves to be celebrated, especially in an era of postmodernist moral insouciance. One wants to stand up and cheer when reading, in his essay “The True Scholar,” of an exchange with one of his best graduate students, who argued that all human action is motivated by the struggle to increase one’s power and possessions. To which Bellah offered the perfect rejoinder. “Is that true of you?” he asked. “How could I ever trust you if that were true?” How much fashionable nonsense could be disposed of by teachers willing to pose those same simple questions, and thereby reassert the moral importance of their own work.
This is what philosophers call the performative contradiction involved in so much postmodernist thought - at least of the deconstructionist variety. That is: one's claimed belief in something being contradicted utterly by one's life as it is lived.

RIP Robert Bellah.