A Church in Doubt | Richard Rex
Conservative Catholics, however, likewise need to be careful. They may fear that the pope might undermine fundamental doctrine on marriage. But some seem almost to relish the prospect. Contrary to widespread belief, the Church is not infallible in all matters. The Church enjoys, in a very restricted context, a privilege of guidance by the Holy Spirit that protects it against defining what is false in Christian doctrine or morality as a truth to be held by all Christians. It cannot require Catholics to believe what is false, but that does not prevent it from committing countless other kinds of errors. The dreadful revelations of the abuse crisis put that beyond doubt. The definition (and hence limitation) of infallibility is most helpfully seen as a providential dispensation that has allowed the Church to admit its numerous mistakes and crimes in the vast areas of human endeavor not guaranteed by infallibility. The pope may well get what he wants. It may well be that traditional teaching on marriage will be compromised in practice by pastoral concessions that some will see as mere laxism—as was once the case with dueling among old Europe’s bloated nobility. The Church inevitably bends to some degree before the winds of change. But one must not rush to judgment or to despair. [...]

If, after all, marriage is not a divine union of male and female in one flesh, dissolved only by the inevitable dissolution of that flesh in death, then the Catholic Church has, in the name of Christ, needlessly tormented the consciences of untold numbers of the faithful for twenty centuries. If this teaching were to be modified in the name of mercy, then the Church would already have been outdone in mercy not only by most other religions but even by the institutions and impulses of the modern secular state. Such a conclusion would definitively explode any pretension to moral authority on the part of the Church. A church which could be so wrong, for so long, on a matter so fundamental to human welfare and happiness could hardly lay claim to decency, let alone infallibility.
Catholic  church  sexuality  marriage  from instapaper
3 days ago
The Anti-Free Trade Populists Must Be Defeated, Not Contained
Populist attacks on the Western-led international order don’t begin and end with free trade; they are aimed at the fundamental assumptions upon which the classically liberal democratic ideal is based. As Mounk concluded, it is, thus, necessary to contain this ideological impulse’s most dangerous excesses. He recommended subversion and assimilation, but there is another approach that is based on a rational hard-power calculation. Classical liberalism’s winners vastly outnumber its losers, and it is the populist nationalist alternative that cannot be accommodated. But it can, and therefore should, be defeated.

Humility and passivity do not well serve those who truly believe the liberal capitalist order hammered out after the Second World War is of the greatest benefit to the greatest number. Concessions to illiberal populists or chauvinistic nationalists should not be the product of charity or self-doubt. They should be hard-won, and only after a bitterly contested ordeal.
politics  election2016  from instapaper
3 days ago
Why does journalism need blockchain technology? – Maria Bustillos – Medium
By creating an ad-free publishing economy on Civil’s Ethereum-based platform, instead of on the traditional web, Popula is putting up a wall against tampering. Popula is accountable to its readers alone, and is impervious to the interests and agendas of advertisers or other intermediaries or “influencers” of any kind. Readers, and readers alone, provide our community, our platform, and the funding for our journalism.

In addition to this, Popula’s readers and their interactions with the publication will be part of a larger, novel experiment in cryptoeconomics. This sounds scary, but I promise you, it’s not. It’s useful and fun.
journalism  from instapaper
3 days ago
Amartya Sen on 'Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny'
Any classification according to a singular identity polarizes people in a particular way, but if we take note of the fact that we havc many different identities - related not just to religion but also to language, occupation and business, politics, class and poverty, and many others - we can see that the polarization of one can be resisted by a fuller picture. So knowledge and understanding are extremely important to fight against singular polarization.

I remember being struck as a child in undivided India during the Hindu-Muslim riots of the 1940s (which I witnessed in Bengal) that the victims very often shared a class identity - the killed people were typically the Muslim poor and the Hindu poor. They also shared a non-religious cultural identity - particularly the Bengali language. Not surprisingly, therefore, as language and culture became more important in Bagladesh (its separation from Pakistan was not linked with religion but with language, literature and politics) and as the Indian part of Bengal pursued politics in which class and poverty became the dominant concerns, the Hindu-Muslim divide became far less sharp (there has been no recurrence of such violence in either part of Bengal over the last half a century). Similarly, a shared business concern does a lot to reduce the force of religion-based divisions in, say, Singapore or Malaysia, despite fomentation by religious ideologues.
politics  culture  identity 
5 days ago
Attention and distraction, prayer and poetry
I dwell on this poem because it demonstrates how the operation of imagination is itself, or at least can be, a mark of attention. My worry is that Marno’s emphasis on what he often calls “pure attention,” drawing on the Evagrian tradition of pure prayer, posits the imagination as itself distracting. Yet a quick comparison of the Donne sermon and poem cited here shows that it is the attitude toward and end of the imagination that matters: distractions pull us constantly from one thing to another with no order and aim; holy attention focuses us and draws us in and up toward God. Poetry in the secular realm is unlikely to have the divine as its object—although it may; it might even dwell happily in distraction—but the focusing of attention does seem important to much modern poetry in English. In that, I think, we are heirs of the Christian tradition of meditative and prayerful engagement with the Psalms, as it runs through, repeats, re-crafts, reimagines, and unsays the images, relations, words, concepts, and things found within the Psalms, and other sacred songs and realities, in order to transform the speaker and the reader so that they might better understand themselves, their worlds, and the relationships that hold them together and tear them apart.
attention  prayer  criticism  from instapaper
6 days ago
Prayer to no end
Sightings of a bridge between philosophy and religion by way of cognitive technē are among this book’s most exciting contributions. At the same time, in the context of Donne’s work in particular, this emphasis on cognitive technē may too starkly delimit the boundaries between feeling and thinking, and between process and end, ultimately prioritizing the latter. To be sure, Marno qualifies his use of technē as unusual in the way it approaches devotion’s uncontrollable variables. Unlike a technology with a strictly defined, concrete end and means, prayer’s “end” can be obscure because it is numinous and shrouded in divinity. The means to secure it are intractable. (Perhaps for this reason, Marno also helpfully proposes we read prayer/poetry as “thought experiments,” which attempt to hit upon the means for their devotional end without always succeeding.)

Nonetheless, the unique nature of devotional technē is still defined in terms of the rift between cognitive ends and emotional means. This stands in some tension with Donne’s reputation as a consummate unifier of thinking and feeling. Indeed, arguing that “the affect [Donne’s] poems seek to produce has less to do with emotion and more with intellection,” strains against the ethos of the poet-preacher’s work at large; one that tends toward an intermixing of body, thought, and feeling, just as it intermingles life’s ongoing endings, middles, and beginnings.
attention  prayer  criticism  religion  from instapaper
6 days ago
Devout death
This is a book, as Marno says at the outset, that “reads poetry to make an argument about devotion as a way of thinking.” And it is an important book precisely because it persuasively demonstrates exactly this: that devotion is a way of thinking. All the more reason to be impressed by what both Augustine and Donne make clear: that the use of personification, direct address, and dialogue affirms that humans are interactive thinkers. And, when humans cultivate receptivity through acts of invention or imaginative, this poetic creativity is all the more powerfully enacted as an interactive process. There is a long and proud tradition of privileging abstraction over interaction, cognition over affect, and apophatic over cataphatic theology. But just as today theories of social cognition seek to demonstrate that brain development is a social process and thinking itself a social endeavor, the devotional tradition that shaped Donne and to which he himself contributed seems most psychologically and cognitively insightful in refusing to make purity a necessary precondition for transformation.
attention  prayer  criticism  from instapaper
6 days ago
Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture | Current Affairs
2. THE FEAR OF ORNAMENT — Ornament is not an indulgence; it’s an essential part of the practice of building. In fact, “ornament” really just means attention to the micro-level aesthetic experience. It’s the small things, and small things matter. The idea of decoration as decadent is particularly ludicrous in the age of monumental design projects. How many more resources are wasted trying to make Frank Gehry’s latest pretzel stay standing up than it would take to install some attractive stonework on a far simpler structure? When we sacrifice the possibility of decoration we forfeit a slew of extraordinary aesthetic tools and forgo the possibility of incredible visual experiences. An allergy to ornament sentences humanity to eternal tedium, with nothing interesting to look at, nothing that we will notice on a building the second time that we did not see the first time.
architecture  from instapaper
6 days ago
The Undeath of Cinema - The New Atlantis
Peter Cushing’s spare frame, sharp cheekbones, and long limbs are part of what made him him; they are essential to his Cushing-ness. Creating a convincing facsimile of his living, breathing, moving form after his death should not be undertaken lightly, any more than exhuming his corpse should be. The grave-robbing version is surely more egregious. Yet if it would be wrong to make a puppet of a dead man’s mortal remains, then it is also wrong to make a puppet of a dead man’s imitated form. A simulacrum is fraught with the dignity of the individual it represents.

Dishonoring the remains of the dead is a near-universal, but poorly articulated, taboo. Many people agree that it is wrong without having a metaphysical framework that justifies their belief in the dignity of the human body. But the widespread unease at the CGI Cushing testifies to the power and wisdom of this taboo, however inchoate.

The technology of digitally bringing deceased actors back to the screen runs counter to this humane impulse, this feeling that it is proper to allow the dead to remain buried. Perhaps it is not only technological advances but also the normalization of destructive means of disposing of dead bodies (like cremation) that allowed Industrial Light & Magic to contemplate Frankensteining Peter Cushing. The central violation of at-will digital resurrection is that it wrongs the dead subject by making him into a puppet.
film  tech  from instapaper
6 days ago
Impossible Pluralism by Paul J. Griffiths | Articles | First Things
The cosmos—everything there is, save the Lord God, who is not a thing, or, if the term must be used, is una summa quaedam res—comes into being cum tempore et cum spatiis, i.e., with space-time as a central feature. This occurs by the free creative act of the Lord. It is not an event that can be dated or placed. The before-and-after of dating, and the here-and-there of placing, belong only to the cosmos, and to all of it without remainder; the cosmos therefore has no before and no outside. Every particular being in the cosmos is created ex nihilo by the Lord (all particular beings, therefore, are creatures) and has whatever being it has by way of participation in him.

Among these creatures are angels; (almost) simultaneously with creation (in ictu), some among these rebel against their creator and introduce thereby deep damage into the otherwise harmoniously beautiful space-time fabric of the cosmos. All creatures, material and immaterial, living and nonliving, are damaged by this fall. The Lord’s response, indexed to time but not itself temporal, is to bring human beings, among many other kinds of creatures, into existence. (The evolutionary story that Bellah tells belongs here; its particulars occupy this place in the frame; and those particulars, as the framing narrative suggests, involve, without exception, death on a massive scale.)

Some among these creatures replicate the angelic fall, introducing new and worse damage into the fabric of the cosmos. The Lord’s response (again, time-indexed but not itself temporal), a response whose finis is the transfiguring of the cosmos’ chaotic deadly violence into an order more beautiful than the original, is to elect a person (Abraham) to special intimacy with himself, and to guarantee that same intimacy with his descendants. That response is intensified, eventually, by the Lord himself taking flesh, joining his substance with that of the man Jesus to become a single person, and in that flesh, as that person, dying and rising and ascending.

Human history then has the nexus of election and incarnation as its central thread; the fabric woven around this thread is of two colors, inextricably intertwined, one representing the love of the Lord, and the other the love of self, one peaceful and the other violent, one heavenly and the other hellish. (The particulars of Bellah’s stories about specific human cultures belong here: They all have the people of Israel and the Church as their vibrant center, whether proleptically or actually.)

Consequent upon the election and the Incarnation is the gradual healing of the cosmos, which progresses principally through the work of the body of Jesus Christ—the Church—here below, and culminates in an eschaton, an end whose particulars lie beyond the scope of this paragraph, and in which the two threads in the fabric are finally disentangled.

There’s a metanarrative for you. Its grammar is that of Christian theology. It enframes Bellah’s, fully accounting for it without rejecting any of its particulars that turn out to be true. This Christian metanarrative is of course not universally shared, understood, or offered, and in this it is just like Bellah’s account. If his metanarrative is true, this Christian one must be false—because his account, he thinks, requires Christians exactly not to offer this narrative as a metanarrative. And if this Christian metanarrative is true, his must be false—not in its particulars, necessarily, but certainly in its self-understanding as a metanarrative. Metanarratives don’t brook rivals.

I’ve learned a great deal from Robert Bellah’s magnificent book. But what I’ve learned is about particulars: the ideas of facilitated variation and conserved core processes, for instance, and their possible purchase on the evolutionary process; and the sociological analyses given of particular human cultural forms. These can stand. But the metanarrative Bellah uses to frame them cannot. And since it’s the metanarrative that gives the book its point, I’m left wondering what point remains when the metanarrative is seen for what it is.
theology  evolution  pluralism  from instapaper
6 days ago
Undomesticated Love
In a beautiful paragraph near the end of the final chapter, Freeman, whom I found myself alternately agreeing and arguing with for most of his book, declares that the twenty-first-century Dissenters he is trying to awaken or call into existence
do not withdraw into sectarian enclaves of homogeneity or accommodate to institutional structures of secularity but seek a life together that participates in the new creation and exemplifies what God in Christ intends for all humanity. . . . They do not simply mirror the secular politics of left or right but seek to practice the politics of Jesus through forgiveness and friendship. They refuse to regard distinctions of race, class, gender, or sexuality as determinative of standing in society but see only one new humanity in Christ. They seek the peace of the earthly city, telling the truth about what they see and advocating for the healing of its brokenness, but they recognize that their citizenship is in heaven. They see themselves as pilgrims in the secular age, answerable to the law of another city toward which they journey by faith on the wings of the love of God and neighbor.

To my ears that sounds not so much like dissent from something as assent to something, to Someone. And that makes all the difference.
christian  church  from instapaper
6 days ago
The Privilege Predicament
A few years ago, I found myself embroiled in an argument at a symposium, where one speaker had referred to “white privilege” as a self-evident phenomenon. Was it really necessary, I asked, to point out that there is privilege and privilege, whiteness and whiteness? If my white colleague felt that she had a great deal to apologize for, and thought a public symposium a suitable occasion for a display of soul searching, that was well and good, so long as she did not also suggest that we must all follow her lead and all feel about our own so-called privilege exactly what she felt. Was it reasonable to suppose that whiteness confers, on everyone who claims it, comparable experiences and privileges? Was my own background as a working-class Jewish boy, growing up in a predominantly black community, remotely similar to the background or disposition of a white colleague who had never known privation, or had no contact at all with black children? Did it matter, thinking of ourselves simply as possessors of white privilege, that one of us had written extensively on race while the other had devoted herself to scholarly research on metaphysical poetry? Was it not the case, I asked, that what Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda call in The Racial Imaginary “the boundaries” of our “imaginative sympathy” had been drawn in drastically different ways? How could whiteness, or blackness, signify to us the same things?

To consider either of us primarily as white people, deliberately consigning to irrelevance everything that made us different from each other—and different from the kinds of white people who regard their whiteness as an endowment to be proud of—was to deny what was clearly most important about each of us. Rankine and Loffreda rightly challenge those who “argue that the imagination is or can be somehow free of race,” and they mock white writers “who make a prize of transcendence,” supposing that the imagination can be “ahistorical” or “postracial.” But to insist that elementary distinctions be made, as between one experience of race and another, would seem indispensable to a serious discussion of privilege. [...]

A good many of my students, white and black, are in thrall to the idea that they are required to portray themselves as beautiful souls. Even those with little feeling for polemic or posturing are ever at the ready to declare—like their academic instructors—their good conscience and their attachment to the indisputably correct virtues. Thus they find in the idea of privilege an ideal vehicle. It seems at least to provide, to anyone who climbs on board, an opportunity to arrive at a sort of moral high ground that costs nothing. The students at our table were at one in feeling superior to my old teacher. He had, they felt, been oblivious to his privilege, and they were secure in their conviction that they would never be as oblivious as that. Their comfort lay in their unambivalent commitment to a species of one-upmanship. Theirs was the empty affirmation of an ideal they had no need to articulate with any precision, but which amounted to the certainty that, above all things, we are required to be and to remain perfectly guiltless. Nor did they recognize—not so that I could tell—that their immurement in good conscience was itself a privilege that could only be secured by finding others guilty, in one degree or another, of privilege.
race  class  privilege  from instapaper
6 days ago
Waiting for Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment
Pinker’s problems with history are compounded even further as he tries to defend the Enlightenment against the many scholarly critics who have pointed, over the centuries, to some of its possible baleful consequences. Did Enlightenment forms of reasoning and scientific inquiry lie behind modern biological racism and eugenics? Behind the insistence that women do not have the mental capacity for full citizenship? Not at all, Pinker assures us. That was just a matter of bad science.

Indeed, it was. But Pinker largely fails to deal with the inconvenient fact that, at the time, it was not so obviously bad science. The defenders of these repellent theories, used to justify manifold forms of oppression, were published in scientific journals and appealed to the same standards of reason and utility upheld by Pinker. “Science” did not by itself inevitably beget these theories, but it did provide a new language and new forms of reasoning to justify inequality and oppression and new ways of thinking about and categorizing natural phenomena that suggested to many an immutable hierarchy of human races, the sexes, and the able and disabled. The later disproving of these theories did not just come about because better science prevailed over worse science. It came about as well because of the moral and political activism that forced scientists to question data and conclusions they had largely taken for granted.
enlightenment  scientism  history  from instapaper
6 days ago
Andrew Sullivan: The World Is Better Than Ever. Why Are We Miserable?
Pinker’s sole response to this argument — insofar as he even acknowledges it — is to cite data showing statistical evidence of rising levels of a sense of well-being in one’s life across the world. And this is a valid point. But Pinker seems immune to the idea of paradox, irony, or unintended consequences. He doesn’t have a way of explaining why, for example, there is so much profound discontent, depression, drug abuse, despair, addiction, and loneliness in the most advanced liberal societies. His response to the sixth great mass extinction of the Earth’s species at the hands of humans is to propose that better environmental technology will somehow solve it — just as pharmaceuticals will solve unhappiness. His general view is that life is simply a series of “problems” that reason can “solve” — and has solved. What he doesn’t fully grapple with is that this solution of problems definitionally never ends; that humans adjust to new standards of material well-being and need ever more and more to remain content; that none of this solves the existential reality of our mortality; and that none of it provides spiritual sustenance or meaning. In fact, it might make meaning much harder to attain, hence the trouble in modern souls. [...]

Which is to say that both Pinker and Deneen are right, but Deneen is deeper. Deneen sees paradox in human life, tragedy even; he respects the wisdom of the aeons that Pinker is simply relieved we have left behind; and he has a perspective that Pinker — despite his vast erudition and intelligence — doesn’t seem to grasp. Pinker, for example, has no way to understand our current collective rage — why aren’t we all ecstatic about such huge and continuing “progress”? — unless he blames our gloom and grief and discontent on … bad media. It’s all the journalists’ and intellectuals’ fault for persuading people they’re sad when, in fact, they’re super-happy! And he has a faltering grasp of politics, the cycle of regimes, the vicissitudes of history, the decadence of democracies, or the appeal of tyrants. His view of history is so relentlessly Whiggish it’s almost a self-parody. His understanding of the Enlightenment, as David Bell notes, surgically removes its most popular representative, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who saw from the very beginning the paradoxes of liberty and reason, and, for that matter, Edmond Burke, who instantly realized the terrifying emptiness of modernity, and the furies it might unleash upon us.
politics  scientism  liberalism  enlightenment  from instapaper
6 days ago
A Tale of Two Moralities, Part One: Regional Inequality and Moral Polarization
Because “the establishment” (including the Republican political establishment) is relatively cosmopolitan and liberal (in the broad sense), an outpouring of populist anti-establishment sentiment is going to assume a nationalistic, illiberal form more or less by default. The good news is that anti-elite anybody-but-Hillary-ism doesn’t really imply serious public appetite for anything like alt-right authoritarianism. The bad news is that the liberal-democratic capitalist welfare state and the so-called “neoliberal” global order is far and away the best humanity has ever done, and we’ve taken it for granted. We could very well trash it in a fit of pique, and wind up a middle-income kleptocracy boiling with civil strife and/or destabilize the global order in a way that ends in utter horror.

It is very important to keep this from happening! And that means it’s important to understand the mechanisms underlying our cultural and moral polarization. That’s what I’m going to begin to do in this (long!) post, in a preliminary, speculative, exploratory spirit. I want to push a little deeper than the prevailing journalistic narratives have gone, and churn up some credible empirical hypotheses that I hope will help us eventually home in on the correct diagnosis. Then we can hazard some recommendations that may help reduce polarization and mitigate its bad effects. I’ll do that in a future post.
6 days ago
The Good Liberal - The American Interest
Mounk’s policy chops are impressive—the section on housing policy has the virtue of being both interesting and plausible—but after an ambitious buildup, the recommendations seem anticlimactic, the sort of technocratic to-do list that would be well at home on the websites of well-studied Democratic politicians or, for that matter, the Center for American Progress. Like all anti-populists, Mounk is tempted by a narrow instrumentalism. Policy fixes serve no grander narrative and no greater cause; reform is primarily a means to keep populists at bay. To return to politics is to find new ways of ending it. There is little doubt that Mounk would prefer a world without populists. But without energetic challengers, one wonders why the parties of the center-Left and center-Right would so much as consider rethinking their aims.
politics  liberalism  from instapaper
8 days ago
A Quiet Exodus: Why Blacks Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches - The New York Times
Then white evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump by a larger margin than they had voted for any presidential candidate. They cheered the outcome, reassuring uneasy fellow worshipers with talk of abortion and religious liberty, about how politics is the art of compromise rather than the ideal. Christians of color, even those who shared these policy preferences, looked at Mr. Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants, his open hostility to N.F.L. players protesting police brutality and his earlier “birther” crusade against President Obama, claiming falsely he was not a United States citizen. In this political deal, many concluded, they were the compromised.

“It said, to me, that something is profoundly wrong at the heart of the white church,” said Chanequa Walker-Barnes, a professor of practical theology at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta.

Early last year, Professor Walker-Barnes left the white-majority church where she had been on staff. Like an untold number of black Christians around the country, many of whom had left behind black-majority churches, she is not sure where she belongs anymore.

“We were willing to give up our preferred worship style for the chance to really try to live this vision of beloved community with a diverse group of people,” she said. “That didn’t work.” [...]

“Everything we tried is not working,” said Michael Emerson, the author of “Divided by Faith,” a seminal work on race relations within the evangelical church. “The election itself was the single most harmful event to the whole movement of reconciliation in at least the past 30 years,” he said. “It’s about to completely break apart.”
[this is such a horrific tragedy]
christian  church  race  politics 
8 days ago
The egregious overreach of transgender activism
A human being is not a disembodied self sitting behind a control panel in the mind, possessing some indubitable intuition about its true sex (which, incidentally, always just so happens to draw on culturally specific images and ideals of embodied masculinity and femininity). We are our bodies, and these bodies are (aside from those rare intersexual exceptions) male or female.

This bodily reality can no more be denied than we can deny our own mortality.

Anderson is very good at analyzing the intellectual folly of this recent radical shift in thinking about what it means to be transgender. He's even better at showing how this thinking can encourage drastic acts of medical intervention to facilitate a hasty and ill-considered transition that the person who undergoes the procedure comes to regret, requiring "detransition." When this happens in the case of minor children, who in the vast majority of cases would outgrow their gender dysphoria without any hormonal or surgical intervention at all, the consequences are both alarming and infuriating.

Anderson is less helpful in his insistence on exclusively highlighting cases of unhappy transitions, as if no one had ever felt relief and a greater sense of personal wholeness and happiness from undergoing a sex change. The same overabundance of skepticism leads Anderson to adopt the rhetoric of pathology to describe gender dysphoria and transgender people, who are said to be in the grip of thoughts and feelings that are "utterly disconnected from reality, persistently false and unfounded," and even outright "delusional."
sexuality  gender 
8 days ago
When the Jesus Movement Became the Christian Church
So prolific are the changes of this era, and so far-reaching, that it demands to be recognized as one of the most significant turning points in the formation of Christianity. It was at least equal in importance to the far better-known era of Nicea, when the range of possible historical outcomes was far narrower than in the earlier period. The period around 200 was a time of near-infinite possibilities, on matters far broader than something as specific as the date of Easter. Indeed, so much of what the Council of Nicea debated reflected issues that had arisen about 200.
christian  theology  church 
8 days ago
Why I decline to sign ‘prophetic’ declarations | Religion News Service
Our public pedagogy requires a measure of empathy and reassurance toward those we want to influence — as well as a humble recognition that we ourselves are learners!

I find these characteristics often missing in those religious leaders who emphasize the need for “prophetic” statements on various topics.

If our goal is simply to say a lot of true things, then we can take comfort in the fact that we have performed our prophetic responsibilities when we issue straightforward public statements that come off as critical, say, of the concerns of many other religious folks.

But if our assignment is to teach the truth, then we have a more difficult — and more highly nuanced — task. Good teaching requires patience — a trait that we don’t often associate with prophets!
9 days ago
When the congregation has gone, what’s to become of our city churches? | CityMetric
The important question, perhaps, is not what will happen to our city churches – we’ve seen that in action already – but what should happen to our city churches. Should we allow chain restaurants and bars the freedom to serve burgers and drinks in the old pews? Or should we be more selective?

I would hazard that this isn’t just a matter for fusty old priests and bishops to worry over either. Churches are a precious part of our heritage and history in the UK – and that’s something you don’t have to be religious to understand. When interviewed beneath the vaulted arches of O’Neills in Muswell Hill a few years back, a construction worker commented on the building that “It’s weird […] I feel I kind of have to respect it”.

It’s an instinct we all have any time we enter a religious building. Most of us fall silent without being prompted. Many light candles for the dead even if they’ve never prayed before. Survivors in post-apocalyptic dramatisations of the future frequently end up in churches, searching for meaning amongst the chaos.

To keep everyone happy and ensure the longevity of our churches, then, planning needs to strike a balance between renewed functionality and the church’s original spirit. When the Taylor Review last year called for churches to become “social hubs”, they hit upon a fitting solution.
London  England  church 
11 days ago
The Limits of Viewpoint Diversity – Heterodox Academy
"HxA is confident that viewpoint diversity is necessary in the first place to determine if an issue is fully resolved – by itself, consensus is insufficient evidence of resolution, especially if only a select few have been allowed to speak on the question and if inquiry is freighted by moral taboo. But when does the switch get flipped? When does a wicked problem become a settled issue? After a long and quite bloody world-historical dispute, communists are generally the only ones who still believe that communism is up for debate – but there are rather more of them than you’d expect. Is it a resolved question or an open one? How do we tell?

This is a question we at Heterodox Academy wonder about and discuss. Implicit in the value of heterodoxy is the belief that the truth is not easily known, and people who are sympathetic to our mission will gravitate toward a worldview based on this fundamental uncertainty. But we are certain about some things – see slavery and genocide. Understanding where this certainty should stop is crucial to understanding the value of viewpoint diversity."
from instapaper
11 days ago
Samuel Taylor Bloggeridge: Notebook Scatology
American critic Alan Jacobs has coined the phrase “excresacramental” for a particular sort of art, a Swiftian cacography that articulates not only the expressivity but actually the holiness of the abject-physical. From the point of view of the Incarnation, God becoming man is not God becoming the bizarrely soap-washed, clean-linen, dazzling-bleached-smile icon of modern cleanliness that many images of Jesus peddle to modern-day believers, complete with cleaner-than-clean halo shine, like the gleam of newly rinsed glasses in the dishwasher. It is, rather, the non-material taking on flesh and all that flesh is heir to. It is God becoming dust, wet and foul-smelling as well as dry and smoky. The point is, as Coleridge might say, that unless you can truly see that the hawk shitting its load into a sunbeam is as beautiful and holy an image as the white dove flying over blue waters beneath a new rainbow, then you haven't actually seen what the beauty in the world most fully means. The paraclete is un(para)clean. For Coleridge, an apprehension of that place where religious transcendence, pure love, sexual desire (for instance, desire for a well shaped set of buttocks) and the healthy bowel-movement all express one another is not a satirical denigration of love: there's nothing of Swift's ‘Celia Celia Celia shits’ horror in STC's writing. Rather it is a strangely, unusually, wonderfully expressive epitome of the central mystery of a genuinely religious writer: the spiritualisation of matter, the materialisation of spirit. It's Samuel Taylor Kaka-leridge.
12 days ago
Unseen photos of East End London in glorious colour - BBC News
A recently discovered photo collection by the late photographer David Granick reveals London's East End in colour, including streets in Stepney, Whitechapel and Spitalfields.
17 days ago
Wittgenstein as a Philosopher of Technology: Tool Use, Forms of Life, Technique, and a Transcendental Argument
The work of Ludwig Wittgenstein is seldom used by philosophers of technology, let alone in a systematic way, and in general there has been little discussion about the role of language in relation to technology. Conversely, Wittgenstein scholars have paid little attention to technology in the work of Wittgenstein. In this paper we read the Philosophical Investigations and On Cer- tainty in order to explore the relation between language use and technology use, and take some significant steps towards constructing a framework for a Wittgensteinian philosophy of technology. This framework takes on board, and is in line with, insights from postphenomenological and hermeneutic approaches, but moves beyond those approaches by benefiting from Wittgenstein’s insights into the use of tools, technique, and performance, and by offering a transcendental interpretation of games, forms of life, and grammar. Focusing on Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language in the Investigations, we first discuss the relation between language use and technology use, understood as tool use, by drawing on his analogy between language and tools. This suggests a more general theory of technology use, understood as performance. Then we turn to his epistemology and argue that Wittgenstein’s understanding of language use can be embedded within a more general theory about technology use understood as tool use and technique, since language-in-use is always already a skilled and embodied technological practice. Finally, we propose a transcendental interpretation of games, forms of life, and grammar, which also gives us a transcendental way of looking at technique, tech- nological practice, and performance.
philosophy  tech 
17 days ago
NPR : Interview with Wade Davis, On the Edge of Timbuktu, Radio Expeditions
"I coined the term ethnosphere in a recent book, Light at the Edge of the World. The thought was to come up with a concept that would suggest to people that just as there is a biosphere, a biological web of life, so too there is a cultural fabric that envelops the Earth, a cultural web of life. You might think of the ethnosphere as being the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, intuitions and inspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. The ethnosphere is humanity's great legacy. It is the product of our dreams, the embodiment of our hopes, the symbol of all that we are and all that we have created as a wildly inquisitive and astonishingly adaptive species.

And just as the biosphere, the biological matrix of life, is today being severely compromised, so too is the ethnosphere. Only if anything at a far greater rate of loss. No biologist, for example, would dare suggest that 50 percent of all species of plant and animal are moribund or on the brink of extinction. Yet this, the most apocalyptic projection in the realm of biological diversity, scarcely approaches what we know to be the most optimistic scenario in the realm of cultural diversity. The key indicator is language loss. There are at present some 6,000 languages. But of these fully half are not being taught to children. Which means that effectively, unless something changes, these languages are already dead."
from instapaper
17 days ago
Unenlightened thinking: Steven Pinker’s embarrassing new book is a feeble sermon for rattled liberals
Instead, there has been a shift in the mood of liberals. Less than a decade ago, they were confident that progress was ongoing. No doubt there would be periods of regression; we might be in one of those periods at the present time. Yet over the long haul of history, there could be no doubt that the forces of reason would continue to advance. Today, liberals have lost that always rather incredible faith. Faced with the political reversals of the past few years and the onward march of authoritarianism, they find their view of the world crumbling away. What they need at the present time, more than anything else, is some kind of intellectual anodyne that can soothe their nerves, still their doubts and stave off panic.

This is where Pinker comes in. Enlightenment Now is a rationalist sermon delivered to a congregation of wavering souls. To think of the book as any kind of scholarly exercise is a category mistake. [...]

Judged as a contribution to thought, Enlightenment Now is embarrassingly feeble. With its primitive scientism and manga-style history of ideas, the book is a parody of Enlightenment thinking at its crudest. A more intellectually inquiring author would have conveyed something of the Enlightenment’s richness and diversity. Yet even if Pinker was capable of providing it, intellectual inquiry is not what his anxious flock demands. Only an anodyne, mythical Enlightenment can give them what they crave, which is relief from painful doubt.
enlightenment  scientism  from instapaper
20 days ago
Philip Hensher on Sheffield: ‘The discovery of difference turned me into a writer’
Places were less alike in the 1970s than they are now. To a shy boy, the experience was almost overwhelming. People looked and dressed differently. Speech was quite different – I was quite unprepared for “castle” to rhyme with “cattle”, for the glottal stop that took the place of the definite article, for words that started around here and stopped around here. Gennel; mardy; nesh; gi’o’er. A sister was suddenly “our Mandy”. Food was different – there was something called haslet that you got not from butchers, but with weird specificity, from pork butchers. Most of all, the manners were different. They spoke to you briskly; adult women should not be expected to be shy and retiring; the joke was delivered with a straight face, and usually turned out to be on you. Pretty soon I was giving as good as I got.
England  language 
21 days ago
Don’t knock kids for rereading books. Encourage them to read, full stop | Andrew McCallum
A new report seems to agree with me. It claims secondary pupils are falling behind in their reading because they are not moving on from writers they first met in primary school. It cites data showing the 10 most popular books in secondary were all written by Jeff Kinney and David Walliams. In corresponding data for primary pupils the books were all written by Kinney, Walliams and Roald Dahl. The report comes from Renaissance Learning, which runs the Accelerated Reader programme in schools. This directs pupils to choose books based on their assessed reading age. It has a vested interest in constructing reading as a linear process to be tracked and measured. Is reading development really this simple though? I would argue that it’s much more complicated, particularly in the early teenage years. Of course we want children to tackle more challenging material as they grow older. But there are good reasons not to worry if your 13-year-old is yet again reading Walliams’s Billionaire Boy, so long as they still enjoy reading, do it regularly, and have teachers who can gradually nudge them towards new material
22 days ago
Seeking the Holy Spirit
I discovered something in my first year with the church’s liturgy that has remained true since. The liturgy is stable, but it is not safe. You never know which part of the church year, which part of the liturgy, which reading, which celebration of a saint will step out of history and grab you by the heart. The Spirit broods over our work. I also found that the Daily Office helped me listen to the Spirit. So many ideas and concerns assault me as I sit down to pray. I have found that the set prayers of the Daily Office settle my spirit, so that I can finally sit quietly and listen to God. My most powerful experiences of the Spirit have come during that waiting. The Spirit is in the liturgy.
22 days ago
13 Ways Public Schools Incubate Mental Instability In Kids
"Back in 1929-30, there were about 248,000 public schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. How many today? Far less than half. By 2013-14, the number had shrunk to 98,000.

When you consider that the U.S. population nearly tripled in that timeframe, there’s no question this factory model of schooling has grown exponentially. The numbers speak to the intense bureaucratization of a public school system that is becoming more centralized with less local control, packing ever-larger numbers of students in one place.

The natural effect is an emotional malaise that fuels a sense of confusion and detachment. I believe the sociologist Emile Durkheim coined the term “anomie” to describe this sense of isolation. Even the physical architecture of public schools is getting more estranging. They tend to be larger and more looming, almost blade-runner-like in their effect of shrinking and sequestering individuals to irrelevance."
from instapaper
23 days ago
The Crew want to move to Austin – but does Austin want the Crew? | Football | The Guardian
“There is one side of the tracks and the other. It’s a history, and it’s a constructed history of systemic racism all over the country. And here we have our own version in just the fact that we have an east Austin,” said Daniel Llanes, an artist and activist, after the council meeting.

Llanes noted that the Butler proposal was quickly abandoned but the Guerrero Park idea is being taken seriously. “I’m not against the soccer stadium and all of the economic benefits that it would bring. What I don’t want is to locate it in Guerrero Park and I especially don’t want it if they’re protecting west Austin and they’re not protecting east Austin,” he said.

“The stadium would be a blight to a park that everybody around it worked so hard to create,” he added. “I’m a Chicano so my heritage is Native American, it’s earth, you know? So I go: why is it that white people cannot leave a space alone? They cannot leave a big open space with wildlife and trees and water and nature. They can’t just leave it alone, they want to pave it over.”
texas  city 
23 days ago
How technology is designed to bring out the worst in us
Technology feels disempowering because we haven’t built it around an honest view of human nature. The reason we called our new project the Center for Humane Technology is it starts with a view of ourselves.

Silicon Valley is reckoning with having had a bad philosophical operating system. People in tech will say, “You told me, when I asked you what you wanted, that you wanted to go to the gym. That’s what you said. But then I handed you a box of doughnuts and you went for the doughnuts, so that must be what you really wanted.” The Facebook folks, that’s literally what they think. We offer people this other stuff, but then they always go for the outrage, or the autoplaying video, and that must be people’s most true preference.

If you ask someone, “What’s your dream?” that’s not a meaningless signal. A psychotherapist going through an interview process with someone is accessing parts of them that screens never do. I think the [traffic] metrics have created this whole illusion that what people are doing is what people want, when it’s really just what works in the moment, in that situation.
tech  Technopoly  ethics  person  from instapaper
24 days ago
Americans Invented Modern Life. Now We’re Using Opioids to Escape It.
"To see this epidemic as simply a pharmaceutical or chemically addictive problem is to miss something: the despair that currently makes so many want to fly away. Opioids are just one of the ways Americans are trying to cope with an inhuman new world where everything is flat, where communication is virtual, and where those core elements of human happiness — faith, family, community — seem to elude so many. Until we resolve these deeper social, cultural, and psychological problems, until we discover a new meaning or reimagine our old religion or reinvent our way of life, the poppy will flourish."
from instapaper
24 days ago
Geek Trivia: The Oldest Company Logo In Continuous Use Belongs To?
Not only has the British tea company not changed their logo since the inception of the company in 1706, but their original tea house—the first tea house in Britain at that—has been in continuous operation on the same piece of land in central London ever since. In fact, the tea house has been there for so long that not only is Twinings the winner of the oldest continuously-used logo award, but they’re also the longest-standing property tax payer in the history of London.
24 days ago
Physical, Electrical, Digital
This course will consider the centrality of media technologies in the experience of culture by assessing the impact of books, film, records, tapes, disks, and even architectural spaces such as cinemas, on cultural development. Along with readings, discussion, and presentations, students in the course will tell the story of cultural change in media and materiality by working together to construct a web publication using the digital humanities platform Omeka. As such, this course will be strongly project-based and students will play a role in the material studied and be responsible for designing and building the course’s publication. In the process of gathering materials and creating work for this publication, students will practice a wide range of methods including object analysis, visualization, and chronography, and consider theoretical works from a variety of disciplines including media studies, material culture studies, sociology of culture, political economics, and the history of technology. Readings will include work by Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan, Bruno Latour, Lisa Gitelman, Pierre Bourdieu, etc.
24 days ago
On Writing Software Well – Signal v. Noise
"Yet somehow arguments grounded in production code are rare. Few people seem willing to lift the curtain on such codebases, which is a damn shame. Because that’s where the real wisdom is buried. That’s where people have been forced to make actual trade-offs between competing patterns and practices. It’s those trade-offs and the circumstances around them that are valuable.

Programming arguments based in example code is most often stylized and idealized. It’s Platonic shadows on the cave wall. So easy to dig in and defend a technique when you don’t actually have to worry about guarding the flanks, setting up camp, and getting your supply lines in order. You know, like in real life."
from instapaper
24 days ago
The guidebook that led me to a lost corner of England
"Davis was Kent's last working miner and he spent over 30 years working underground. We meet in the village of Aylesham, built specially in the 1930s to house Kent's mining community.

"People forget we had pits here at all," he says. There were four pits open in the county in 1939 and they employed hundreds of men from all over the country, including his own father who travelled from Wales.

"Kent became a melting pot," he says. "We ended up with our own dialect. Even today you can always tell a person from Aylesham because they have a nice soft accent that's a mixture of Geordie and Welsh.""
from instapaper
25 days ago
Liberal Liberation - American Affairs Journal
This premodern Christian understanding of liberty involves limits, but directs those limits toward the higher love that they make possible. More fundamentally, however, the Christian account claims that we attain the fullness of our being only by giving ourselves over to participation in a higher, divine order of life and being that precedes us but draws us ever more deeply into it. It is the divine love that gives being to all things, and that inspires in us love for our neighbors, our family, the created world and especially our local bit of it.

The liberal disembedding mechanism, by contrast, detaches us from the local to deliver us over to loyalty to a state that grants and sustains our existence as individuals. It thus represents a perverse imitation of the Christian liberation. It seeks to substitute itself for Christianity’s communion and to replace this encompassing love with a foundation in distrust. Likewise it replaces communion with an emphasis on “respect” that takes the form of spheres of mutually exclusive rights, negotiated with the backing of the state’s threat of coercion. It resists acknowledging that Christianity might offer a higher principle of belonging, even while claiming to recognize Christianity’s right to exist within the liberal state.
politics  liberalism 
25 days ago
Against the Deformations of Liberalism - American Affairs Journal
Perhaps Deneen’s idea of practicing classical and Christian virtues in small, local, communities will help. I do believe that Americans in general need to recover a richer understanding of liberty coupled with responsibility, self-restraint, and practices of virtue. One of the benefits of living in a free, if decadent, liberal society is that Deneen and his readers are at liberty to make such experiments. But by blaming all our ills on liberalism and insisting that its underlying political philosophy is uniformly bankrupt, I doubt that the members of these local communities will do much to improve our political lives. Liberalism is not dead. Rather, it is a set of ever-imperfect political beliefs and practices that hold together awkwardly at best, even when they are not being pushed to excess by ignorant ideologues. Can American liberalism be improved? I do not know. But if it can, it will require political philosophers and statesmen who can heighten Americans’ awareness of the contingency of the freedoms we cherish, of the genuine ingredients of human flourishing, and of the political practices required to make the most of equivocal goods like freedom.
politics  liberalism 
25 days ago
Integration from Within - American Affairs Journal
Joseph, Mordecai, Esther, and Daniel, however, mainly attempt to ensure the survival of their faith communities in an interim age of exile and dispossession. They do not evangelize or preach with a view to bringing about the birth of an entirely new regime, from within the old. They mitigate the long defeat for those who become targets of the regime in liberalism’s twilight era, and this will surely have to be the main aim for some time to come. In the much longer run, it is permissible to dream, however fitfully, that other models may one day become relevant, in a postliberal future of uncertain shape. One such model is St. Cecilia, who, forced into marriage against her vows, converted her pagan husband; their joint martyrdom helped to spark the explosive growth of the early church. Another is of course St. Paul himself, who by the end of Acts of the Apostles preached the advent of a new order from within the very urban heart of the imperium.

Here too there is no hint of retreat into localism. There is instead a determination to co-opt and transform the decaying regime from within its own core. It may thus appear providential that liberalism, despite itself, has prepared a state capable of great tasks, as a legacy to bequeath to a new and doubtless very different future. The vast bureaucracy created by liberalism in pursuit of a mirage of depoliticized governance may, by the invisible hand of Providence, be turned to new ends, becoming the great instrument with which to restore a substantive politics of the good.
politics  liberalism 
25 days ago
Conscience and Coercion | Thomas Pink
The Church has jurisdiction over the baptized, who have an obligation of fidelity to the Church, to believe her doctrine and to obey her laws, including a duty to assist her mission when she requests it. And, according to traditional doctrine, the Church has the right and authority to enforce this jurisdiction coercively, with temporal or earthly penalties as well as spiritual ones. The Church has no right to punish unbelief among the unbaptized, who are outside her jurisdiction and have no obligation of fidelity to the Church. But the Church still has the authority to use coercion to defend her jurisdiction against those unbaptized who interfere from without, proselytizing on behalf of false religions. As for the baptized, who do have obligations of fidelity to her, the Church has the authority to punish culpable unbelief through penalties for heresy, apostasy, and schism. The point of such sanctions is punitively to reform heretics, apostates, or schismatics, or at least to discourage others from sharing their errors.
Catholic  from instapaper
26 days ago
Orbital Operations | Warren Ellis
I’m an edge case.  I want an untangled web. I want everything I do to copy back to a single place, so I have one searchable log for each day’s thoughts, images, notes and activities.  This is apparently Weird and Hermetic if not Hermitic.

I am building my monastery walls in preparation for the Collapse and the Dark Ages, damnit. Stop enabling networked lightbulbs and give me the tools to survive your zombie planet
26 days ago
Fictionality « CA: Journal of Cultural Analytics
"This article is about understanding the differences between fictional and non-fictional texts, the signs that signal to readers when a story is true or not-true. Rather than look at a single example as I have done above, or even several of them, I will be using a collection of roughly twenty-eight thousand documents, both fictional and non-fictional, to better understand what distinguishes fictional writing from its non-fictional counterpart. Much of my emphasis will focus on the novel as one of the dominant forms of fictional writing from the nineteenth century to the present. Beginning around 1800, when we know the novel began its inexorable quantitative rise to prominence, what makes the novel unique as a form of fictional discourse?"
from instapaper
28 days ago
Everything Easy is Hard Again — Pixel Envy
"Over the last five years or so, even the most basic website stopped being treated as a collection of documents and started being thought of as software. Over the same period of time, I have gone from thinking that I know how to build a website quickly and efficiently to having absolutely no clue where to start learning about any of this stuff. I can’t imagine being eight years old again and being interested in the web as something anyone can contribute to."
from instapaper
28 days ago
Erick Erickson on Brody and Lamb's spiritual biography of Donald Trump | The Weekly Standard
Brody and Lamb’s book highlights everything wrong with the morphing of American evangelicalism into a post-Jesus cult of personality looking for salvation delivered by politicians—including its hypocrisy and sophistry regarding Trump and morality. The authors quote one evangelical leader saying that evangelicals’ relationship with the president is authentic, not transactional. But a few chapters earlier, the same individual described a conference call he led with the Trump campaign’s evangelical advisers just after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about assaulting women. During that call, “all of us agreed to stand behind the candidate.” After all, Trump “had sacrificed his entire life, in my viewpoint, and supported us. How could we not support him?”
election2016  evangelical  politics 
29 days ago
Communicating with Slip Boxes by Niklas Luhmann
"As a result of extensive work with this technique a kind of secondary memory will arise, an alter ego with who we can constantly communicate. It proves to be similar to our own memory in that it does not have a thoroughly constructed order of its entirety, not hierarchy, and most certainly no linear structure like a book. Just because of this, it gets its own life, independent of its author. The entirety of these notes can only be described as a disorder, but at the very least it is a disorder with non-arbitrary internal structure. Some things will get lost (versickern), some notes we will never see again. On the other hand, there will be preferred centers, formation of lumps and regions with which we will work more often than with others. There will be complexes of ideas that are conceived at large, but which will never be completed; there will be incidental ideas which started as links from secondary passages and which are continuously enriched and expand so that they will tend increasingly to dominate system. To sum up: this technique guarantees that its order which is merely formal does not become a hindrance but adapts to the conceptual development."
from instapaper
29 days ago
Let’s keep dancing
In Why We Dance, I gather emerging evidence from across scholarly and scientific disciplines that bodily movement plays a more vital role than previously imagined in both the evolution of the human species and the development of a human person. Big brains. Empathic hearts. Strong social bonds. Tool use. Language use. Morality. Religion. Ecological adaptability. So many qualities said to distinguish a human among animals (if only in degree) exploit an inborn ability to create and become patterns of bodily movement—a kinetic creativity that the modern dancers revealed in their dances.

Because humans can play with bodily movement—because we can discover patterns, practice making patterns, and then share those patterns with other humans—we are able to find uses for objects and talents and physiological forms that have no single evolutionary purpose. We can discover new applications for a rock or a thumb or a brain because we can discover new ways of moving in relation to it. Humans have a capacity to learn to move with whatever enters our sphere of perception—whether antelope or potential mate. We can cultivate a sensory awareness that not only helps us to perceive it, but also primes us to receive impulses to move in relation to it that are life-enabling.
4 weeks ago
The New View of Heaven Is Too Small | Christianity Today
While I celebrate Wright’s holistic vision in Surprised by Hope, his account here creates more problems than it solves. What does it mean for our actions to “last” into the new creation? Wright unpacks his idea by saying, “I don’t know what musical instruments we shall have to play Bach in God’s new world, though I’m sure Bach’s music will be there.” Our present actions—whether in composing a cantata or a poem or sewing or caring for the needy—are signs of the coming new creation. But is this really a healthy way to cultivate resurrection hope?

A friend of mine is facing death; he spent his life as an auto mechanic. Will his repaired cars make their way to the new creation? If not, why does Bach’s contribution have kingdom value, while my friend’s does not? Likewise, a pastor in my home state of Michigan mentioned to me that many members of his congregation assume that there will be plenty of woods and deer in heaven. So naturally, they fantasize about shooting a 39-point buck in the heavenly woods. Can deer hunting be a clue, a “real and effective sign,” of the coming new creation? Why include the human labors of Bach but exclude those of Michigan hunters?

Middleton, Wright, and others have sought to counter a “boring” view of heaven. But is the solution to focus on our own desires and actions as “effective signs” and project them into the future? I fear that such an approach does not generate a cosmic view of God’s work in restoring the whole creation (as they desire), but small, individualized versions of paradise.
theology  bible 
4 weeks ago
Loving the Amish | Commonweal Magazine
"The takeover of the Republican Party by Trump and his defenders has brought into the public spotlight a whole host of anti-Trump conservatives such as Jennifer Rubin, Bret Stephens, and Michael Gerson, and they are writing the best political commentary available today. Hopefully one of them will be tempted, when matters calm down, assuming they ever do, to explain the path that led them as conservatives to denounce the populistic immorality of the extreme right.

Along similar lines, we will need a passionate case on behalf of blending religion and politics, because what passes for the Evangelical case, if there even is one, is full of holes. As the Republican Party continues to swirl down the drain of immorality, the field is wide open for a conservative to let us know what the next step ought to be in making our society a tad bit more ethical. In the age of Trump, we know what liberalism is but we have no idea what conservatism is—or will be."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
The Intellectual War on Science - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The stigmatization of science is also jeopardizing the progress of science itself. Today anyone who wants to do research on human beings, even an interview on political opinions or a questionnaire about irregular verbs, must prove to a committee that he or she is not Josef Mengele. Though research subjects obviously must be protected from exploitation and harm, the institutional-review bureaucracy has swollen far beyond this mission. Its critics have pointed out that it has become a menace to free speech, a weapon that fanatics can use to shut up people whose opinions they don’t like, and a red-tape dispenser that bogs down research while failing to protect, and sometimes harming, patients and research subjects. Jonathan Moss, a medical researcher who had developed a new class of drugs and was drafted into chairing the research-review board at the University of Chicago, said in a convocation address, "I ask you to consider three medical miracles we take for granted: X-rays, cardiac catheterization, and general anesthesia. I contend all three would be stillborn if we tried to deliver them in 2005." The same observation has been made about insulin, burn treatments, and other lifesavers. [...]

Take another life-or-death political question. Do campaigns of nonviolent resistance work? Many people believe that Gandhi and King just got lucky: Their movements tugged at the heartstrings of enlightened democracies at opportune moments, but everywhere else, oppressed people need violence to get out from under a dictator’s boot. The political scientists Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan assembled a data set of political-resistance movements across the world between 1900 and 2006 and discovered that three-quarters of the nonviolent resistance movements succeeded, compared with only a third of the violent ones. Gandhi and King were right, but without data, you would never know it.

Though the urge to join a violent insurgent or terrorist group may owe more to male bonding than to just-war theory, most of the combatants probably believe that if they want to bring about a better world, they have no choice but to kill people. Would anything change if everyone knew that violent strategies were not just immoral but ineffectual? It’s not that I think we should airdrop crates of Chenoweth and Stephan’s book into conflict zones. But leaders of radical groups are often highly educated, and even the cannon fodder often have had some college and absorb the conventional wisdom about the need for revolutionary violence. What would happen over the long run if a standard college curriculum devoted less attention to the writings of Karl Marx and Frantz Fanon and more to quantitative analyses of political violence?
4 weeks ago
Ed Simon: When Books Read You
"But regardless of the procedure, what makes bibliomancy fascinating is that unlike other forms of divination, it trades in something which already has an interpretable meaning – words. Perhaps a butcher can figure out the narrative that a sheep’s liver conveys, but that The Aeneid, as indeed all texts, has a meaning requires no suspension of disbelief, even if the meanings which are being derived seem far from authorial intention. What I find so interesting about bibliomancy is that it takes the written word, which again we all assent to as composing the very atoms of meaning, and it interprets those lines and sentences slant. Furthermore, it wrenches the very interpretive center of a given text away from the authority of the author who created it toward the service of the reader who consults the text as pilgrim at Delphi. Bibliomancy is thus a radical form of reading, one in which the reader themselves becomes a figure in the text’s narrative, for in presuming that The Aeneid (or Horace, or the Bible, or the I Ching) can predict our individual future, even obliquely, is to assume that we’re somehow encoded as characters in the text itself, like Moses reading of his own death in the Torah."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Ed Simon: When Books Read You
"This use of coins, and sticks, and dice can be contrasted to those methods in which the book is allowed to speak for itself (as it were), where a volume simply falls open so as to answer the questions posed to it, as with Charles at Oxford. This method relies on an innovation in information technology so ubiquitous that its radicalism may not be apparent: the codex. Simply the technical term for what we call a “book,” the codex was first used as a means of Roman record keeping, and arguably only began to supplant the scroll as the main method of literary transmission with the writing of the gospels, and then shortly thereafter with the roughly simultaneous, if divergent, Jewish and Christian canonization of certain texts as officially scriptural. A codex, by its very architecture (circumscribed by cover and back), enshrines certain presuppositions about writing: it makes a text discrete and separate, it turns the book into an individual. And an individual of course can have a question posed to it, with an expected answer. Yet the book’s prehistory of being a scroll endures in the malleability and interconnectedness which bibliomancy presumes, where literature endures as a type of electromagnetic force field which the auger can master."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
University, Inc. - The Atlantic
With devastating skill Readings takes apart the rhetoric of "excellence" with which universities cover the emptiness at their core. Rankings (like those in U.S. News & World Report) measure it, and internal budgets focus on it. And the joy of excellence is that we all agree about it. Its invocation "overcomes the problem of the question of value across disciplines, since excellence is the common denominator of good research in all fields," while all manner of multicultural diversities can be accepted as equally excellent.

The trouble is that excellence is meaningless when it comes to key decisions (for example, to close a classics department and open up a multicultural-studies program). "So to say that excellence is a criterion is to say absolutely nothing other than that the committee will not reveal the criteria used to judge applications." Those criteria, it turns out, lie elsewhere. The pursuit of excellence allows the university "to understand itself solely in terms of the structure of corporate administration." A key slippage then occurs, as the quite proper demand that the university be accountable gets translated into the reductionist idea that everything is simply a matter of accounting.
4 weeks ago
Open Letter to the Bruin Republicans who invited Milo Yiannopoulos to UCLA | The Weekly Standard
You need to ask yourselves, what is your goal as an organization? If you’re in it for the lulz and just want to see the world burn, then I guess go ahead and bring in a vapid provocateur.

But if your mission is to spread conservative ideas, you should recognize that hosting Yiannopoulos will only render your organization and our ideas toxic. The left often suspects that principled conservative positions are actually borne of racism. Conservatives have traditionally pushed back against this criticism. Here at UCLA, that will be a much less tenable argument for Bruin Republicans to make if they host a talk by someone whose sole recommendation is that his offensiveness to others is his big idea.
politics  academentia 
4 weeks ago
Snow Leopardise to not compromise
I use these PowerBooks, iBooks, and Power Macs, and Mail doesn’t quit unexpectedly or corrupts its message archive; the Finder doesn’t hang randomly, making the machine almost completely unresponsive; after leaving these Macs for a while, I don’t find their fans spinning at maximum speed because a couple of rogue processes are using 134% of CPU resources each(!); their Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth connection doesn’t drop for apparently no reason at random time intervals (and a couple of those Macs even use third-party Bluetooth dongles!); these and other issues I have instead experienced on more modern Intel Macs with Mac OS X 10.9 and later. And these and other issues are prominent enough to impact the user experience and make people feel distrust towards the operating system and the machine.
[All I can say is this: for the past three releases of Mac OS, I have had so many bugs that dramatically interfere with my work — that is, that make it impossible for me to get done what I need to get done — that I have increasingly been taking refuge in the less capable but less buggy environment of iOS. I would absolutely be using the Mac full time if it worked — but all too often it Just. Doesn’t. Work.]
mac  apple  iOS 
4 weeks ago
T&T Clark Companion to Atonement (Bloomsbury Companions): Adam J. Johnson
The goal of this doctrine is to understand and expound: the sanctified intellect’s joyful act of worship, as the church and its members seek to understand the God who revealed himself in his saving act, by means of God’s chosen witness to that act, Holy Scripture. Developing this doctrine is thus first and foremost an act of submission, of learning, recognizing, and understanding the witness we have received, for its origin lies in the decision and act of God, who does not merely seek to save his creatures, but to be known and worshipped by them as he is, as the Savior.

Only in a secondary and derivative way does the doctrine of the atonement dwell upon and respond to the challenges and heresies of its day. Biblical, theological, philosophical, religious, ethical, and other critiques have their vital role to play in the development and formation of doctrine (not least holding it accountable to its true vocation). But as the church’s calling and freedom to develop doctrine stems from the being and act of God, such critiques and questions play at most a significant ministerial role in holding the church accountable to its primary calling: joyful and rigorous reflection upon and development of the scriptural testimony to the saving work of the Lord Jesus. This is all the more true, given that the church’s primary end endures beyond all conflict and error, joining the angels in their never-ending privilege of worship, singing “blessed is the lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12) in ever new stanzas and choruses (Ps. 96:11).
theology  bible 
4 weeks ago
Opinion | America’s Real Digital Divide
"These facts have not been allowed to get in the way of the shiny-new-things approach to learning. In 2014, New York received a half-million-dollar grant to lend internet hot spots to low-income families. According to the Urban Libraries Council, such lending programs are “the latest buzz.” Similar programs have begun in Chicago, Seattle and St. Paul, with funding coming from Google and other companies.

But no one is telling poorer parents about the dangers of screen time. For instance, according to a 2012 Pew survey, just 39 percent of parents with incomes of less than $30,000 a year say they are “very concerned” about this issue, compared with about six in 10 parents in higher-earning households.

Make no mistake: The real digital divide in this country is not between children who have access to the internet and those who don’t. It’s between children whose parents know that they have to restrict screen time and those whose parents have been sold a bill of goods by schools and politicians that more screens are a key to success. It’s time to let everyone in on the secret."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
History of European morals from Augustus to Charlemagne - William Edward Hartpole Lecky - Google Books
Many superstitions do undoubtedly answer to the Greek conception of slavish 'fear of the Gods,' and have been productive of unspeakable misery to mankind ; but there are very many others of a different tendency. Superstitions appeal to our hopes as well as our fears. They often meet and gratify the inmost longings of the heart. They offer certainties where reason can only afford possibilities or probabilities. They supply conceptions on which the imagination loves to dwell. They sometimes impart even a new sanction to moral truths. Creating wants which they alone can satisfy, and fears which they alone can quell, they often become essential elements of happiness ; and their consoling efficacy is most felt in the languid or troubled hours when it is most needed. We owe more to our illusions than to our knowledge. The imagination, which is altogether constructive, probably contributes more to our happiness than the reason, which in the sphere of speculation is mainly critical and destructive. The rude charm which, in the hour of danger or distress, the savage clasps so confidently to his breast, the sacred picture which is believed to shed a hallowing aud protecting influence over the poor man's cottage, can bestow a more real consolation in the darkest hour of human suffering than can be afforded by the grandest theories of philosophy. . . . No error can be more grave than to imagine that when a critical spirit is abroad the pleasant beliefs will all remain, and the painful ones alone will perish.
4 weeks ago
The cult of Mary Beard
"One reason Beard is so widely beloved is that her interventions in public life – whether one agrees with her or not – offer an alternative mode of discourse, one that people are hungry for: a position that is serious and tough in argument, but friendly and humorous in manner, and one that, at a time when disagreements quickly become shrill or abusive, insists on dialogue. Still, it is these precise qualities that can, equally, land her in deep water. The point of her notorious 9/11 article was that one could simultaneously deplore the terrorists’ murderous violence, and try to understand their position. After the deluge of angry emails arrived, she tried to reply to most of them, even making a couple of friends along the way. When I asked her if she would countenance taking Isis’s ideology seriously, she said: “That’s the wrong question. There is no argument that I won’t take seriously. Thinking through how you look to your enemies is helpful. That doesn’t mean that your ideology is wrong and theirs is right, but maybe you have to recognise that they have one – and that it may be logically coherent. Which may be uncomfortable.” Few would think it worth arguing with Arron Banks, the Ukip donor, when he said the Roman empire had collapsed because of immigration. Beard pulled him up on Twitter, suggesting he might like to read a bit more classical history – and then went out to lunch with him."
from instapaper
4 weeks ago
The Political Scientist Giving the Art World Something to Think About
"What Mr. Deneen identifies as liberal societies’ “pervasive amnesia about the past” has further undermined the traditional culture of collecting. “Salvator Mundi” might have achieved a one-off, landmark price (in an auction of contemporary art), but generally old masters are now far less fashionable with the superrich than they were in the days of the Czar of Russia. On Feb. 1, Sotheby’s annual evening sale of master paintings in New York raised $48.4 million, a seemingly substantial total, until one recalls that the company’s biannual evening auction of contemporary art in November raised $310.2 million.

Today’s art world, in fact, offers one of the most conspicuous manifestations of what Mr. Deneen identifies as “the extreme presentism of the contemporary era,” as well as its “new aristocracy” of economic winners."
from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Theological Reflection on Male-Female Complementarity
Apostolic writings, especially Paul, establish our fundamental equality (1 Cor. 11:11,12; 1 Cor. 7:4-6), but with differing emphases for husbands, wives and children. These are attributable to missional differences which fulfil differing kinship responsibilities, rather than ontological differences. The mission of spouses is to found and sustain caring bonds of loving natural kinship, whether affinal (Eph. 5:25-27), or lineal (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). A good alternative example of complementarity is the Church’s purpose and mission, described in Eph. 4:13. The respective gifts and ministries bestowed upon members of the Church are describedas complementary to each other (1 Cor. 12:21). This is what I call missional or vocational complementarity.
5 weeks ago
American Journalism as an Institution - Yuval Levin
This understanding of the roles of institutions helps to clarify what trust in an institution might mean. People trust an institution because it seems to have an ethic that makes those within it more trustworthy. People trust political institutions because they are shaped to take seriously some obligation to the public interest as they pursue the work of self-government, and they shape the people who populate them to do the same. People trust the military because it values courage, honor and duty in carrying out the defense of the nation, and forms men and women who do too. People trust a business because it promises quality and integrity in meeting some need, and rewards its employees when they deliver. People trust a university because it is shaped, and shapes those within its orbit in turn, to be devoted to learning and truth. People trust a journalistic institution because it has high standards of honesty in reporting the news that make its work reliable.

People “lose faith” in an institution when they no longer believe it plays this ethical or formative role. One way in which this might happen is when institutions plainly fail to protect the public from avarice or selfishness or vice in the carrying out of their primary purposes, as when a bank cheats its customers or a member of the clergy abuses a vulnerable child. Another is when they simply fail to impose an ethic on the people within them and seem to exist only to serve those individuals’ interests—and as a result seem to be unworthy of trust not because they have failed to earn it but because they appear not to seek or desire it. And something like that is what has been happening to American institutions in recent decades.

In fact, the public’s very understanding of the purpose of institutions has changed subtly but fundamentally. Americans have moved, very roughly speaking, from thinking of institutions as “molds” that shape and form people’s characters and habits toward seeing them as “platforms” that allow people to be themselves before a wider world. The former understanding would have institutions counterbalance individualism; the latter only has them intensify it. And this subtle, gradual change in expectations has driven and magnified the loss of trust in institutions.
journalism  institutions  politics 
5 weeks ago
The Modest University
To all this one could legitimately reply that my account is itself a product of a comprehensive moral vision. By arguing that the moral limitations of the university necessarily restrict the kinds of claims and activities that universities can legitimately sustain, I assume but never articulate a moral vision of my own. To such a rebuttal I would simply reply that my account presumes not a comprehensive moral vision but rather a more cultural and sociological account of the conditions in which public universities currently find themselves—those of pluralism. As someone trained in a public university (UC Berkeley) and who now teaches in another (UVA), I have never been able, nor have I wanted, to assume that either my colleagues or my students shared a common moral vision, whether that means a set of particular doctrines or shared practices tied to a faith tradition, a particular philosophical anthropology, or even a vision of what it means to live well. This is the world I have always found myself in, and I remain committed to living in it and learning from it. One benefit of my vision is that it understands the moral limitations of universities not as a failure of conviction or a capitulation to the levelling forces of modernity but rather as a strength to be defended. Universities that reflect on these limitations have real social goods to share.
university  academe  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
How to Pay Attention (course)
This course is an advanced seminar in the anthropology of attention. What makes the anthropology of attention different from other ways of studying attention (e.g. psychology) is that we study it as a social and cultural phenomenon: attention is not just a matter of individual minds selecting objects from environments. Rather, attention is collectively organized and valued. We learn how to pay attention and what to pay attention to from other people; other people make technological and media systems to intentionally organize collective attention. We learn to value certain kinds of attention (e.g. intense focus on work, mindfulness, or multi-tasking) and to criticize others (e.g. absent-mindedness, distraction, intense focus on entertainment) in cultural contexts. So, while we will be experimenting with our own attentions throughout this course, we will remember that our attentions are not really our own. No one pays attention alone.
attention  thinking 
5 weeks ago
bell hooks talks to John Perry Barlow
John Perry Barlow: I was just describing you to someone in terms of the externalities that would end up on your curriculum vitae, and the person said, she sounds like your polar opposite. On paper, you are my polar opposite and yet I feel none of that in your presence.

bell hooks: I actually feel that my heart was calling me to you. The first time we were in the same room for a prolonged period of time together, I sought you out. I wanted to hear your story.

John Perry Barlow: I felt the same way.

bell hooks: And what I see in a lot of young folks is this desire to be only with people like themselves and only to have any trust in reaching out to people like themselves. I think, what kind of magic are they going to miss in life?
politics  culture  dialogue  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
The Business of Learning
Academic satire was one of the most popular genres of the era, with even Frederick the Great writing one. But the state of student life unsettled parents and thus exacerbated the problem of declining enrollments, which left a number of universities too poor to pay their faculties regularly, something that didn’t help them offer better instruction. Professors who spoke out against the excesses of student drinking and secret societies could face violent reprisals, as the philosopher J.G. Fichte did in 1794–1795. Students repeatedly bombarded his house with rocks, nearly killing his sick father-in-law on one occasion when a large paving stone came crashing through a window. With technical institutes—an Enlightenment favorite—and finishing academies proliferating, and with scientific academies functioning as centers of discovery, a question raised by learned and influential commentators grew louder and louder: Do we even need universities?
university  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Mind at the End of Its Tether (1945)
Indeed, there's something ironic in a book that insists the old existential repetitions are coming to an end being, in itself, so very repetitious. But perhaps that's not irony; perhaps that's the point. This is Wells's cope-stone work, slender though it is. It self-consciously repudiates the very fact of ‘the future’, which looks like it is denying the very grounds on which Wells's fame as a writer rests: an anti-prophetic work that denies there will even be a future to be prophetic about. But this doesn't seem to me quite right. I think what Wells is confronting here is not the death of the future, but the death of uncertainty, that quantity which enacts not only the distinction between fact and fiction, but precisely the prophet's distinction between past and future. Wells at the end of his life has lost faith in uncertainty. Without it into which to expand, Being simply butts its head on the inevitable, over and over, until the particular iteration of Being doing the butting finally stops, as happened with Wells on 13 August 1946.
modbrit  modernism  pessimism  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
How to Find God (on YouTube) - Los Angeles Review of Books
First, it is striking how INC Christianity spiritualizes institutional irresponsibility into a kind of liberation. As one leader told the authors, “We don’t want to lead a movement. We don’t want to be responsible for churches. We just want to have our voice and do what we do.” A senior leader at IHOPKC was alarmingly honest: “we just don’t want to govern other things.” Or as a leader of the Global Legacy network put it: “You can’t join us.” Because then we would be responsible.

While this is celebrated as spiritual independence, it’s hard not to sense here some kind of arrested development, a spiritualization of irresponsibility. This is a desire for influence without the burdens of leadership — to be the charismatic center of attention without any responsibility for others. This is especially worrisome when one realizes, as Christerson and Flory document, that this desire for independence is bound up with a refusal to submit to the authority of others, a desire to be free from constraints. Such pious anti-institutionalism not only erodes institutions but also sequesters leaders (“apostles”) from accountability. This is the kind of leadership that assures followers by the trope of unaccountable personal assurance: “Believe me.”
christian  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Ex-intel chief responds to Trump's 'liar' dig: 'This is normal now'
Trump listed Clapper this week among the “biggest liars and leakers in Washington,” a group that the president said also includes Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), former FBI Director James Comey and former CIA Director John Brennan. Asked if the attack bothered him, Clapper said “no, it doesn’t.”

“That, in itself, I think, is kind of a sad commentary. I remember thinking when he tweeted out about Sally Yates and me choking at this hearing, that had I showed up in the oval office in the last administration and President Obama commented to me, ‘hey, you really choked on this hearing,’ I’d have been devastated,” he continued. “But now it doesn't seem to matter and that in itself is a sad commentary because it’s just – this is normal now. And that is part of the regrettable situation we find ourselves in where the discourse in Washington has gotten so crude and so coarse that people are starting to be jaded to it.”
politics  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Paul Berman: Three Theories of the Rise of Trump – Tablet Magazine
I think we need a Theory No. 3, on top of Nos. 1 and 2. A Theory 3 ought to emphasize still another non-economic and non-industrial factor, apart from marriage, family structure, theology, bad doctors, evil pharmaceutical companies, and racist ideology. This is a broad cultural collapse. It is a collapse, at minimum, of civic knowledge—a collapse in the ability to identify political reality, a collapse in the ability to recall the nature of democracy and the American ideal. An intellectual collapse, ultimately. And the sign of this collapse is an inability to recognize that Donald Trump has the look of a foreign object within the American presidential tradition.

Dimly I recognize that, in presenting my Theory No. 3 in this way, I may have done a less than good job at drawing Trump’s admirers into a healthy debate. The admirers are likely to feel that I have merely thrown insults at them (and perhaps they have found a way to return the favor, which is by voting for Trump). Or they might tell me that, in the 19th century, Andrew Jackson was likewise regarded as a barbarian and a dictator by a certain kind of snob, and so was Abraham Lincoln, and, if America has a quaint and odious political custom, snobbery is it. And, to those complaints and objections, I have no way to respond, except by affirming that Jackson and Lincoln were entirely within the American tradition, and the Mussolinian con man of our own moment comes from a different planet altogether, which ought to be obvious at a glance. But I have to acknowledge that what is obvious to me is invisible to others.
5 weeks ago
3 Theological Reflections on Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed | Church Life Journal
"In Deneen’s reading, liberalism appears as one of the latest but certainly neither the first nor the last wholesale attempt to undo the meaning of the world, re-envision the meaning of the human being, and reconceive of the project of liberation. Whether Deneen’s critique is aimed directly at liberalism in particular or modernity as a whole is an open question, but what is clear from his sweeping (anti-)cultural and political analysis is that the basic assumptions that drive policy and education and commerce and technology ripen into a seemingly irresistible way of living and moving and having being. By his own prescriptions, Deneen calls for a return to smaller communities, more particular cultures, and more intentional practices in order to recover a sense of citizenship and a project of liberty worth living for. Furthermore, though, if Deneen’s diagnosis, when reflected upon theologically, is also detecting a “fall story” in terms of the biblical view of creation, the human person, and freedom, then Deenen’s civic and political recommendations will also have religious analogues."
from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks
The difference, for Horza, is that the Idirans, for all their flaws, have a certain depth, or seriousness, that is conspicuously lacking in the Culture. Their actions have meaning. To put it in philosophical terms, their lives are structured by what Charles Taylor refers to as “strong evaluation.”9 (Indeed, the inability of the Culture to take the war that it is fighting seriously serves as one of the most consistent sources of entertainment in all the Culture novels, as reflected in ship names, which are generally tongue-in-cheek such as: What are the Civilian Applications? or the Thug-class Value Judgement, the Torturer-class Xenophobe, the Abominator-class Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints, etc.)

Consider Weber’s famous diagnosis of modernity, as producing “specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart.” In the Culture, the role of the specialist has been taken over by the AIs, leaving for humanity nothing but the role of “sensualists without heart.”10 Thus the chief attraction of the Culture is the promise of non-stop partying and unlimited sex and drugs. (Genetic and surgical modification provide Culture members with the ability to make almost unlimited changes to their bodies, which typically include enhanced genitalia that allow them to experience intense, extended, and repeated orgasms, as well as the installation of specialized glands that produce a range of psychoactive chemicals, to dull pain, to produce euphoria, to remain awake, or to produce almost any other feeling that might seem desirable.)
fiction  SF  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
The Best Gear for Your Road Trip: Reviews by Wirecutter | A New York Times Company
A road trip should be an adventure, but all adventures require a little planning (and one or two backup plans in case things go sideways). This year, after spending 60 hours researching and testing gear for the open road, we packed all our top contenders into our pick for the best subcompact hatchback and headed out on a four-day jaunt to see what kind of gear is nice to have, what’s great, and what’s absolutely essential for your next road trip.
5 weeks ago
The problem with “critical” studies | In Due Course
Earlier on, I said that the ambition for “critical social science” was to have, not just social science guided by normative commitments, but for those normative commitments to be made explicit. The biggest problem with the books I read is that they almost invariably failed on the second half of this. It was obvious that the authors – with the exception of a few law professors – had no idea at all how to make a normative argument. Indeed, they seem incredibly averse even to stating clearly what sort of normative standards they were employing. The result was entire books aimed at bolstering resistance to things like “neoliberalism,” none of which ever stated explicitly what “neoliberalism” is, much less what is wrong with it.

A long time ago, Habermas wrote a critical essay on Foucault, in which he accused him of “cryptonormativism.” The accusation was that, although Foucault’s work was clearly animated by a set of moral concerns, he refused to state clearly what his moral commitments were, and instead just used normatively loaded vocabulary, like “power,” or “regime,” as rhetorical devices, to induce the reader to share his normative assessments, while officially denying that he was doing any such thing. The problem, in other words, is that Foucault was smuggling in his values, while pretending he didn’t have any. A genuinely critical theory, Habermas argued, has no need for this subterfuge, it should introduce its normative principles explicitly, and provide a rational defence of them.
philosophy  ideas  critique  norms 
5 weeks ago
Wittes and Rauch: Boycott the Republican Party - The Atlantic
It’s Trump’s party now; or, perhaps more to the point, it’s Trumpism’s party, because a portion of the base seems eager to out-Trump Trump. In last year’s special election to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, Republican primary voters defied the president himself by nominating a candidate who was openly contemptuous of the rule of law—and many stuck with him when he was credibly alleged to have been a child molester. After initially balking, the Republican Party threw its institutional support behind him too. In Virginia, pressure from the base drove a previously sensible Republican gubernatorial candidate into the fever swamps. Faced with the choice between soul-killing accommodation and futile resistance, many Republican politicians who renounce Trumpism are fleeing the party or exiting politics altogether. Of those who remain, many are fighting for their political lives against a nihilistic insurgency.

So we arrive at a syllogism:

(1) The GOP has become the party of Trumpism.
(2) Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
(3) The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.

If the syllogism holds, then the most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. In our two-party system, the surest way to accomplish these things is to support the other party, in every race from president to dogcatcher. The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold.
5 weeks ago
Person to Person
In other cases, Ferguson uses “network” as little more than a homonym, as when he treats as meaningful the fact that TV channels are called “networks,” even though they are called that only as a linguistic fossil of American broadcasting’s historic network–affiliate structure. A certain amount of conceptual slippage might be a matter of indifference to the general reader or to Ferguson’s fellow historians, who may reasonably think that the historical facts and analysis are interesting regardless of how strictly they distinguish among varieties of alternatives to hierarchy.

But to this sociologist’s ear, conflating social networks, civic organizations, and social movements is confusing and imprecise. Some forms of human action are shaped by the structure of personal relationships. Others are shaped by affiliation with voluntary associations from which we derive identity and meaning. Both are important alternatives to hierarchy, but they work in different ways and so should be kept distinct.
sociology  networks  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Polarization Is an Old American Story
The most poignant comparison, however, is the bitterness of the divide. For much of the 1790s, neither Adams’s Federalists nor Jefferson’s Republicans “accepted the legitimacy of the other,” Mr. Wood says. “And of course, the Federalists never thought that they were a party. They were the government,” and Jefferson’s Republicans a malignant faction trying to take the government down. The Republicans, for their part, “thought that the Federalists were turning us into a monarchy and reversing the American Revolution.”

We hear plenty of similarly apocalyptic rhetoric today, but much of it is cynical and self-consciously exaggerated. What was striking about the 1790s, Mr. Wood emphasizes, is the extent to which each party sincerely believed the other posed an existential threat.
politics  history  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Andrew Sullivan: When Two Tribes Go to War
Dominate the news cycles. Do anything to muddy the conflict and to sow suspicion. Lie, if you have to. Exercise not the slightest concern for the stability of the system as a whole — because tribe comes first. Trump, to make things worse, sees no distinction between the tactics he deployed as a private citizen in lawsuits for decades and the tactics he is deploying as president, because he has no conception of a presidency committed first of all to the long-term maintenance of the system rather than the short-term pursuit of personal interest. He simply cannot see the value of institutions that might endure through time, under both parties, as a way to preserve objective fact-finding and the neutral enforcement of justice. All he sees is his own immediate interest, as filtered through his malignant narcissism. Some thought this might change when he became president and realized the gravity of the office. We know now how delusional that idea was. [...]]
[I have yet to speak to a Trump supporter who has any concern whatsoever for damage done to political and social institutions. In fact, most of them seem to rejoice in that damage. I think their indifference is perilously shortsighted.]
6 weeks ago
On the call from outside
"Another difference between us arises around the question of whether secular enchantment entails a world laden with “value.” Bilgrami clearly distinguishes his appeal to an external ethical source of value from Taylor’s position, which involves a transcendent source. I share Bilgrami’s nontheism, but the raucous world of vibrant matter I envision is somewhat at odds with the idea of intrinsic moral value. My “enchanted” materialism does council presumptive efforts to align ourselves with the complex, open system-quality of the universe. But it seems also more attentive than Bilgrami is to the fact that an emergent and generative universe is is not pre-designed to ensure human justice or happiness, is not fully predictable, and does not necessarily tend toward equilibrium. Thus Bilgrami’s quest for “a life of harmony between the demands of an external source and our dispositional responses to its demands” seems not quite right. A certain disharmony is built into the world at large and also into the mood of enchantment, which includes discomfort in the face of forms of material agency that one can neither master nor ignore. Thus it is that I find ethical utility in the experience of alienation, whereas Bilgrami seeks ways for secular moderns to live an “unalienated life.”"
from instapaper
6 weeks ago
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