Librarian of the Internet. Collector of Stories.
2972 stories
·
38 followers

Self-Driving Issues

3 Comments and 9 Shares
If most people turn into muderers all of a sudden, we'll need to push out a firmware update or something.
Read the whole story
adamgurri
1 day ago
reply
New York, NY
Share this story
Delete
2 public comments
alt_text_at_your_service
1 day ago
reply
If most people turn into muderers all of a sudden, we'll need to push out a firmware update or something.
Cthulhux
1 day ago
How many bots ARE here?
davidar
1 day ago
one and a half
dukeofwulf
1 day ago
I, for one, welcome our new bot overlords.
srsly
1 day ago
The other one went down for a few months, so I appreciate this one.
cschulee
1 day ago
Takes one to know one...
alt_text_bot
1 day ago
reply
If most people turn into muderers all of a sudden, we'll need to push out a firmware update or something.
eriko
1 day ago
Yay! you are back.

Is Bitcoin Heading To Zero?

1 Share

Bitcoin has not had a good past few months. I am not going to take all the credit, but I did write my post “Why I Would Bet Against Bitcoin” on December 16, and the very next day Bitcoin began it’s tumble that has brought it down 50% in value. As far as calling a peak goes, you must admit this chart is pretty good timing.

When I called the Bitcoin peak

A 50% decline really doesn’t look like a very good store of value does it? The recent stock market decline of around 10% is nothing compared to this. Again I think this sort of volatility undermines the fundamental value and usefulness of Bitcoin.

But volatility and hordes of bubble-chasing speculative investors are not Bitcoin’s only problem, there are technical shortcomings as well. For this, I recommend reading Eli Dourado. Eli is a phd economist who is an actual expert on the economics of cryptocurrency, and coauthored the cryptocurrency chapter for the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Like myself, Eli is actually an optimist about the potential for cryptocurrencies. However, he argues that when you look at all the important features for a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is either dominated by Ethereum or soon will be. Given the strength of Ethereum, he argues “I no longer believe there is a stable place for Bitcoin, Ripple, or most other cryptocurrencies that exist today”. 

I won’t give you all of his reasons Ethereum dominates Bitcoin, you should read the whole piece yourself, but here are a few important ones. One issue is transaction fees, which are significantly lower for Ethereum. The high transaction fees are one reason why the Bitcoin conference famously and hilariously had to stop taking Bitcoin payments for ticket.

Another issue Eli says favors Ethereum is governance quality. The leadership, developers, and community matter a lot for a cryptocurrency. Writing his New Palgrave article in 2014, Eli was optimistic about Bitcoin governance quality, but since then, he writes, things have gotten ugly:

Bitcoin has been unable to seriously address its on-chain scaling problems. Its community has alienated, marginalized, and purged dissenting voices, notably Mike HearnGavin Andresen, and Jeff Garzik. Its core development team has been captured by an ideological faction committed to only off-chain scaling in the name of decentralization. This faction has undermined consensus scaling agreements and trashed the reputation of anyone who points out any of the above. As early as September 2015, I was concerned about Bitcoin governance quality, but still—mea culpafor that 2014 paragraph. I really got it wrong.

From Eli’s analysis, it seems that governance quality is a key competitive advantage for a cryptocurrency. While source code and technical parameters can be copied, and network effects can change, governance institutions can’t simply be copied:

Governance institutions are especially important for cryptocurrencies because they can’t be simply copied. You can perhaps copy the institutional structure, and you can copy the outcomes and decisions, but when a crisis occurs, you want the A team to handle it as calmly, reasonably, and professionally as possible. Source code and technical parameters can be copied. Adoption and network effects can be replicated over time. Good governance—like good culture at a company—is a challenge to develop, and once you lose it, it’s hard to get it back.

One irony of this is how similar this is to the institutional quality problem of central banking. For a central bank to manage a currency well they need to be politically independent and technically capable. Central banks that have failed to follow modern central banking best practices or have been captured by politicians have done poorly throughout history. Despite the much advertised decentralization of cryptocurrencies, these historical central banking issues of institution quality and governance quality seems to matter a lot. And for Bitcoin this seems like bad news.

Read the whole story
adamgurri
11 days ago
reply
New York, NY
Share this story
Delete

Richard Rorty’s Love or Money Liberalism

1 Share

Paul Crider’s recent piece Intersectional Liberalism is good evidence for how expansive the word “politics” has become. He says, “Any liberalism worth defending must be intersectional,” where intersectionality is defined as a “descriptive understandings for how lives can be shaped by identities and their interactions when they overlap.” “A liberalism that does not attend to intersectionality,” he adds, “simply defaults to a racialized and gendered liberalism that silences the voices, needs, and desires of the oppressed and marginalized.” Intersectionality is thus “true, and powerful, and vital.”

I don’t deny the fact that intersectionality is both true or powerful, but “true” doesn’t always mean right and “powerful” isn’t always the expression of a good kind of power. It stands to question then: Is intersectionality, and the attendant political correctness and identity politics that usually come along for the ride, really “vital” to the future of liberalism?

In seeking an answer, one could do worse than to consult the work of Richard Rorty. A common criticism leveled at Rorty throughout his life was that his politics were old fashioned and out of touch. Casually remarking on this, he once said:

Richard Posner has always said that philosophically I’m on the right track, it’s just that I had no sense of concrete economics or socioeconomic policy: “Rorty is still talking about ‘oligarchy’ and ‘the bosses.’”

There are two related sides to this charge of having old fashioned politics: on the one hand, it’s the idea that he was still talking about “bosses” and “oligarchs,” emphasis on the still as if the time to talk of these things has long since passed; on the other, the fact that he wasn’t talking about socioeconomic policy. One might add to the latter, the fact that he refused to talk about or see the importance of identity politics, seeing them as, at best, distracting and at worst, a fight that had wandered onto the wrong battlefield. We can see Rorty’s self-described “minimalist liberalism,” as well as his insistence on there being a split between the political and the social, as springing from both his admiration for the Old Left of the New Deal —which he relabels the “reformist” Left—and his discontent with the New Left’s attraction to identity politics. The split, for Rorty, was the Vietnam War: the point at which people could no longer take pride in their country, what it was and what it still might become.  

Love and money

In 1992, Rorty wrote a short essay entitled “Love and Money” in which he riffs on E.M. Forster’s Howards End. The piece places Rorty’s thought in a fairly black and white light but is nonetheless useful for setting a foundation to his further thought. Forster’s hope, Rorty tells us, was that someday there would be enough wealth to go around, and that this would make “tenderness” toward others and love pretty much ubiquitous. Although not the first or only to realize this, it was seeing the primacy of the economic over and against the political that caught Rorty’s attention. Seen from this vantage point, “the distinction between Marxism and liberalism was largely a disagreement about whether you can get as much, or more, wealth to redistribute by politicizing the marketplace and replacing the greedy with government planners. It turned out you cannot.” Even though the Marxists were wrong about things getting better once you turned the whole system upside down—and this little experiment has been pretty much universally realized to have failed—they were right to point out that the soul of history is indeed economic. Rorty draws from this conclusion that since Marxism isn’t really of interest anymore, “we are back with the question of what top-down initiatives we gentlefolk might best pursue.”

Put simply, what Forster understood, and Rorty took pains to point out, was that the adage “only connect”—or its Christian spin, that the only law is love—is only possible when people can relax long enough to think about things other than mere survival or whether or not they can pay their next bill. Rorty picks up on this Forsterian theme and says that “tenderness only appears … when there is enough money to produce a little leisure, a little time in which to love.” This argument should be familiar to us considering “economic anxiety” seems to be the motivating force behind much of our political activity—or so the analysts and social critics tell us. Indeed, as Rorty points out: “The pre-Sixties Left”—by which he means the pre-Vietnam Left—“assumed that as economic inequality and insecurity decreased, prejudice would gradually disappear.”

Rorty’s only point in this rather brief essay is that the ends we want—love, leisure, friendship, happiness, tenderness—won’t be realized through a revolution in values or from ditching wholesale “Western ways of thinking.” The reason we don’t love each other isn’t because we don’t know how and need to be pointed to the Bible or a few more feminist tomes, it’s because we don’t have the time or security—in short, the money. The reader will no doubt see a barb aimed at both the Right and the Left here: rarely has virtue transcended deplorable conditions; and the concrete, deplorable conditions of millions are scarcely remedied by talk of “the patriarchy,” important as those criticisms are. Rorty of course acknowledged the great strides we’ve made in treating people more humanely as a result of more diverse scholarship in these areas, but, he laments, the laws and socioeconomic status of most people has largely remained the same. Though writing in the mid-1990s, one still wonders how much progress we’ve made on the latter front.

Crudely, the issue is this: some liberals—old fashioned liberals still talking about bosses and oligarchs—want to talk about money and the concrete ways in which we can maximize people’s comfort and security; other liberals want to talk more about love, hoping that a revolution in the nation’s moral sensibility about, say, homosexuality will bring about the desired effect. The latter type of liberal “prefers not to talk about money. Its principle enemy is a mind-set rather than a set of economic arrangements—a way of thinking which is, supposedly, at the root of both selfishness and sadism.” One may well see our modern obsession with identity as an extension of liberals’ movement away from hopes of spreading the wealth around and toward hopes of spreading the love and changing the culture. This, of course, turns the pre-Sixties formula on its head: a change in a culture’s sensibilities will lead to economic progress.

However, Rorty agrees with his fellow pragmatist Robert Brandom that what matters to us “morally and so ultimately, politically” cannot be understood in the framework of the naturalist. In other words, our highest end as a human community is not, in fact, the “avoidance of mammalian pain.” Rather, it is “the capacity each of us creatures has to say things that no one else has ever said… Our moral worth is our dignity as potential contributors to the Conversation.” Here, we see an obvious tension is Rorty’s thought: if, as Brandom says, “pain, and like it various sorts of social and economic deprivation, have a second-hand, but nonetheless genuine, moral significance” as compared to our participation in the Conversation, how do we square Rorty’s preference for Romanticism and the imaginative creation of new vocabularies and linguistic practices with the idea that concrete security and comfort ought to be the motivating ideals of the Left? Put another way, if adding one’s note to the symphony of humankind is the highest end to human life, why worry so much about people’s socioeconomic situation?

In a telling passage, Rorty says that because “pain is our best example of contact with reality,” our most pressing moral duty is to “relieve the social and economic deprivation which fills so many human lives with unnecessary pain.” But, he goes on,

If asked why that is our duty, I think the best answer is that we want everybody to be able to lead a specifically human life: a life in which there is a chance to compose one’s own variations on old themes, to put one’s own twist on old words, to change a vocabulary by using it. Brave New World—still the best introduction to political philosophy—shows us what sort of human future would be produced by a naturalism untempered by Romance, and by a politics aimed merely at alleviating mammalian pain.

Clearly, Rorty privileges the the relief of unnecessary suffering—an adjective that invites a host of other problems—only because it leads to participation in a full human life, which consists in the imaginative recreation of ourselves and the vocabularies we employ in that service. He agrees, in the last analysis, with Brandom that “our overarching public purpose should be to ensure that a hundred private flowers bloom,” though he acknowledged that public efforts to increase freedom and decrease suffering ought to be piecemeal and incremental, staying as far away from the sweeping political programs promising Utopia offered by radicals and Marxists.

Bosses, Oligarchs, and Identity

The adjective “private” accompanying “flowers” above is important. Rorty maintained that there ought to be a distinction between public and private, and this was mostly due to the fact that “the demands of self-creation” and of “human solidarity” are “equally valid, yet forever incommensurable.” In other words, our public projects and private pursuits differ radically and the attempt to fuse the two often ends in disaster. It is in this sense that Rorty sees the movement toward identity politics as both a misreading of the situation and as an expression of hopelessness about prospects endeavoring to spread the wealth around.

The misreading comes from people’s privileging the philosophical—ideas—over the political. “Philosophy,” Rorty says, “is responsive to changes in the amount of political hope, rather than conversely.” He goes on:

I cannot believe that the degree of Utopian hope manifested by the public, or even that manifested among the intellectuals, is greatly influenced by changes in opinion among philosophy professors.

Similarly, Rorty sees a turn toward identity politics as evidence of this loss of hope in the traditional Utopian narratives put forth by the post World War II generation. The narrative went something like this:

These intellectuals thought that peace and technological progress would make possible hitherto undreamt-of economic prosperity within the framework of the free market. They believed that such prosperity would bring about successive political reforms, leading eventually to truly democratic institutions in every part of the world. Prosperity would make it possible to establish welfare states of the Scandinavian sort in all democratic countries. The institutions of such welfare states would ensure equality of opportunity among the children of a city or of a country would become the rule rather than the exception.

Of course, Rorty is one of these “intellectuals” who subscribes to this narrative. It’s also why he was caught between Conservatives and reactionaries who urged him to be more serious (read: less socialist), and the followers of Foucault and Derrida who urged him to talk more about identity and difference.

Concerning the last point, Rorty thinks that all this talk of “difference,” “identity,” and “the group” is bound to be “politically sterile” in large part due to the fact that “philosophy is a good servant but a bad master.” Rorty agrees with Harold Bloom that the texts of Derrida and Foucault have mostly led to large swathes of people seeing the “study of literature and philosophy simply as a means to political ends,” and that this school of people can be labeled with little exaggeration “the School of Resentment.” Rorty thinks that those who belong to this school are lacking in the sort of romance Whitman, Dewey, and Lincoln had; “they view themselves as ‘subverting’ such things as ‘the humanist subject’ or ‘Western technocentrism’ or ‘masculist binary oppositions.’” They have convinced themselves that through the chanting of various “Derridean or Foucauldian slogans” that they are fighting for human freedom. All of this seems to be of a piece with Rorty’s philosophical aversion to identity politics.

But we should put Rorty’s aversion to identity politics into a political context as well. “Heaven knows,” Rorty pleads, “I have nothing against these movements,” and we ought to take him seriously. He isn’t one more curmudgeon bemoaning the fact that people don’t want to hear what he has to say about African American liberation movements. Rorty’s is quite the odd criticism: he doesn’t see feminist, gay rights, or intersectionality movements as anything new—any new way of seeing or approaching normal, run-of-the-mill politics. He merely sees them as adding “further concreteness to sketches of the good old egalitarian Utopia.” Famously, Rorty once claimed that we haven’t really gotten beyond Mill; all these movements, while necessary and good in their own right, don’t really dissolve, solve, or add anything to Mill’s insight that “everybody gets to do what they like as long as it doesn’t interfere with other people’s doing the same.”

In a line anyone would skip over, Rorty tips his hat to the role of these movements. In a nod to the public-private distinction, he says:

The effect of these new movements is to say such things as: In a just global society, not only would all children have roughly equal chances, but the girls would have the same sort of chances as the boys [and] nobody would care about which sex you fall in love with, any more than about the lightness or darkness of your skin.

These movements are, as Rorty has said elsewhere, cultural battles for the hearts and minds of the populace; for lack of a better way to phrase it, they are not the most urgent political matters in light of the fact that national and global overclasses unaccountable to any single nation’s laws now make all the major economic and political decisions.

In light of a crumbling U.N. and increasing disillusionment with globalization, it seems somewhat quaint for Rorty to advocate a “global polity, which can develop some sort of countervailing power to that of the super-rich.” I still very much think we need that power, I’m just unsure what form it will need to take in the 21st century. So to is it difficult to resist the quasi-conspiratorial idea that those at the top fan the flames of cultural difference and identity so that the spotlight is perpetually fixed upon “the people” in all their bickering—an idea that Rorty himself tips his hat to when he says, “If I were the Republican oligarchy, I would want a left which spent all its time thinking about matters of group identity, rather than about wages and hours.”

If we think Forster and Rorty are mostly right about money, identity politics and the claims of intersectionality can only be seen as important but nonetheless secondary matters. I pretty much agree with Matt Taibbi that “Big money already has a stranglehold on the process of government. It outright owns most of the member of Congress, and its lobbyists write much of our important legislation.” Lending even more credence to this conspiratorial whispers, we sometimes forget how much the two parties in this country agree about—the surveillance state, trade, defense spending, torture—and instead choose to focus on the disagreements—essentially, just abortion and guns, and lately immigration.

Furthermore, I think Rorty is right to point out that acknowledging identity and group affiliation is a choice. Part of Rorty’s anti-Platonist, anti-foundationalist philosophy is refusing to believe anything is written in the stars or that we are obliged to anything but our fellow citizens: there’s nothing—no law, no text, no authority—that says we must privilege identity and our group over and against, say, one’s class or one’s country. Identity and group belonging, Rorty says, are just one lens among others, as Paul Crider in his piece  rightfully acknowledges. “You can forget about it; you can embrace it; you can do various things in between,” but—and this is where Rorty parts with most of the modern Left today—what’s frustrating is the “suggestion that you have some duty to embrace [your identity and your group] rather than forget about it.” He goes on: “Why are we talking about the politics of difference? I just don’t see what was wrong with the politics of individuality, conjoined with the usual attempt to repeal this or that law, overcome this or that prejudice, and so on.” Our identities and the groups we choose to affiliate with  “don’t need recognition of their ‘cultures’; they just need not to be pushed around.” To the rather obvious retort of “Well, why focus on class instead? Isn’t it just as arbitrary either way” Rorty has no convincing answer other than “because it’ll probably be more useful in getting what we want.”

I think Rorty is still right to worry about bosses—the most immediate and consequential form of authoritarianism in everyone’s lives as Elizabeth Anderson points out—and oligarchs—the ones calling most of the political and economic shots. As I’ve said before, most political conversations seem to be moot until we can somehow manage to get money out of politics or mitigate or reverse the consequences of Citizens United. Whatever else one thinks about civil society writ large, communities, culture, and other intermediary institutions, our political system seems to have money, other people’s money, at its nucleus. If this is my starting point, it makes sense that people like Rorty and I see identity politics and intersectionality as, at best, a necessary cultural fight but at worst, a distraction from increasingly pressing political issues. Perhaps Rorty is still right about the central questions:

[T]he central political questions are those about the relations between the rich and the poor … how can the working class in a democratic society use the power of the ballot to prevent the capitalists from immiserating the proletariat, while still encouraging business enterprise? How can the state be a countervailing power, one which will prevent all the wealth winding up in the hands of an economic oligarchy, without creating bureaucratic stagnation? How can the political order take precedence over the economic while still leaving room for economic growth?

Indeed, I think these questions are still very much central. Our task as liberals is to fight the political and economic war just as much as the rhetorical, cultural one—it just so happens that the latter has crowded out the former to an uncomfortable degree. Put another way, Rorty knows these incursions into academic warfare over intersectionality, feminism, and identity are, at their heart, good and noble causes. The way he saw it, though, was that an unpatriotic and smug Left obsessed with identity, intersectionality “will eventually become an object of contempt.”

 

Featured image is Campus protest march against hate speech, by Fibonacci Blue

Read the whole story
adamgurri
17 days ago
reply
New York, NY
Share this story
Delete

Life expectancy slowdown

1 Share

Tyler Cowen cites a study that says that the rate at which life expectancy at birth (LEB) is increasing has slowed down. This does not surprise me.

Suppose that there are two outcomes. One outcome is that you live to a ripe old age. The other outcome is that you die within one year of birth. As the percentage of people who die early goes from 10 percent to 1 percent, average LEB goes up dramatically. As it goes from 1 percent to 0.1 percent, average LEB goes up more slowly. But I would not call that stagnation.

Read the whole story
adamgurri
17 days ago
reply
New York, NY
Share this story
Delete

Thinking the New Protest Culture: Arendt

1 Share

Arendt’s wisdom provides a unique of understanding the spectre haunting the American university – the spectre of protest.  Across the country, universities have erupted in largely non-violent, very public protests.  Aligning themselves with groups such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street, the new American protest culture is intimately concerned with promoting social justice and diversity and opposing institutional racism, sexism, and homophobia.  One such example subsists in the University of Missouri football team’s refusal to play in response to a much-publicized racial incident on campus, which resulted in the resignation of the University’s President.[1]   New campus activism, additionally, involves the creation of “safe spaces,” sub-units of universities where students who belong to or identify with marginalized groups are able to “relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability.”[2]  Additionally, some instructors have opted to add “trigger warnings” to syllabuses and certain public posts in order to “tag content that depicted or discussed common causes of trauma like military combat, child abuse, incest, and sexual violence.”[3]

All of these concerns emanate from what conservative columnist David Brooks calls “shame culture.”  Brooks writes, “The ultimate sin today, Crouch argues, is to criticize a group, especially on moral grounds.  Talk of bad and good has to defer talk about respect and recognition.”  Further, “in the new shame culture, the opposite of shame is celebrity – to be attention-grabbing and aggressively unique on some media platform.”  Yet, the essential feature here is that in shame culture, “social exclusion makes people feel they are bad,” as opposed to people who do “bad things.”[4]   Brooks’ concerns are further echoed in Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s Atlantic Monthly piece, “The Coddling of the American Mind.”  In this piece, Lukianoff and Haidt argue, “Trigger warnings are sometimes demanded for a long list of ideas and attitudes that some students find politically offensive in the name of preventing other student’s from being harmed” and that safe spaces represent places where “young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable.”  This results in a “culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.”[5]

Both pieces refer to Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind.  In this work, Bloom harshly criticizes the American university for lowering academic standards, ignoring central facets of liberal education, and enforcing political correctness out of a misplaced sense of egalitarianism.  Of particular import here is Bloom’s insistence that students are “awash in moral relativism.”[6]  For instance, “The social sciences have dealt with Nazism as a psychopathology, a result of authoritarian or other-directed personalities, a case for psychiatrists, as presented by Woody Allen.”[7]  Bloom provides an example from his teaching experiences.  “I asked…Who do you think is evil?  To this one there is an immediate response: Hitler….And there it stops.  They have no idea of evil; they doubt its existence.  Hitler is just another abstraction, an item to fill up an empty category.  Although they live in a world in which the most brutal crime in the streets, they turn aside.  Perhaps they believe that evil deeds are performed by persons who, if they got the proper therapy, would not do them again…”[8]

Brooks’ response to Bloom is unexpected.  First, Brooks argues that, “Bloom’s thesis was right at the time, but it’s not accurate anymore.  College campuses are today awash in moral judgment.”  Further, Brooks claims that the campus activism “might rebind the social and communal fabric.  It might reverse, a bit, the individualistic, atomistic thrust of the past 50 years.[9]  Brooks is not altogether wrong, and from an Arendtian standpoint, the new campus activism represents an incomplete version of Arenditan civil disobedience.

For instance, Arendt emphasizes the import of community in her writings on civil disobedience.  Quoting Tocqueville, Arendt argues that, “Consent and the right to dissent became the inspiring and organizing principles of action that taught the inhabitants of this continent the ‘art of associating together.’”[10]  Further, this notion of civil disobedience carries with it the notion that the “First Amendment neither in language nor in spirit conveys the right of association as it is actually practiced in this country – this precious privilege whose exercise has in fact been (as Tocqueville noted) ‘incorporated with the manners and customs of the people’ for centuries.”[11]  As a result, the Arendtian perspective would applaud the concept behind the creation of safe spaces as a means whereby students who otherwise feel marginalized may be incorporated into the wider community.  The goal of the new protest culture, however, could not be any more different from that of the New Left.  Rather than a desire to overthrow institutions considered oppressive, new protest culture demands greater access to institutions, even if said institutions are oppressive, with the hope of reforming them.

Such a desire to join with communities is laudable.  However, the Bloomian criticism is still very much valid from an Arendtian standpoint.  While the ends pursued by new protest culture are remarkable, the means “double-down,” as it were, on some of the worst aspects of the modern university as explicated by Bloom.  The desire to build safe spaces, in addition to wanting to join the community, is informed by notions of trauma. However, the use of the rhetoric of trauma here legitimizes the presence of a veritable army of counselors, administrators, professionals and other ‘problem-solvers’ – bureaucrats – whose job is to apply social scientific stratagem to contemporary social ills.  What emerge are institutions whereby the appearance of healing has begun, but these institutions are fundamentally empty.  The goal of administration in this sense, according to Arendt is to pursue “the cause of image-making and winning people’s minds.”[12]

Thus, from an Arendtian standpoint, new protest culture is a half-finished project.  While the diagnosis is correct and its goals admirable, new protest culture’s unabated trust in institutional solutions is misplaced, ignoring Arendt’s pleas to build institutions without bureaucratization.  To Arendt, bureaucracies are indeed violent but not visibly so, making the power necessary to resist them that much more difficult.[13]

Arendt’s writings on democracy and political activism do not represent some awkward middle period in Arendt’s oeuvre. Crises of the Republic represents an experimental type of thinking on Arendt’s part.  The essays therein are timely, but not of their time.  They are theoretical but not overly abstract.  They are focused on particularities, but not pedantic.  Of particular import, Arendt’s thoughts on the nature of judgment are presented here in nascent form. In a university climate so intimately concerned with questions of civil disobedience, Arendt’s heterodoxy regarding questions of civil disobedience and the role of judgment in these questions are infinitely valuable.

Here, an Arendtian perspective on civil disobedience is of much great practical import.  While an Arendtian analysis cannot say what students ought to do, it can provide insight regarding how one ought to do it or, importantly, what one ought not do.  This is well in keeping with Arendt’s affinity for Socratic politics.  Socrates’ daimon does not tell him what to do, but what not to do. For Arendt, this Socratic invocation of “divine sign” as David Corey calls it[14] comes from an unpolitical source – the conscience.[15]  Yet, even if the conscience is unpolitical, it is only sharpened and developed if one lives in a political community.  To this end, Arendt reminds us, “As we use the word [conscience] today, in both moral and legal matters, conscience is always supposed to be present within us, as though it were identical with consciousness.  (It is true that it took language a long time to distinguish between the two.)”[16]

The purpose of politics in Arendt’s later work concerns, to a large degree, the question of where one’s attention is laid.  Arendt responds in prophetic fashion: she does not explicate, only points.  She does not present answers, but formulates how we may arrive at our own conclusions.  This is, to some degree, to be expected.  To Arendt, the questions of political struggle involve timeless concepts expressed in particular historical settings that can only be mediated through self-reflection guided by aesthetic judgment.  The goal is to find the right images to “tend one’s own garden,” as it were, when it comes to questions of political exigencies.  Only then may one approach the other in a position of ethical openness in a space that encourages a common life, where speaking and acting and thinking together is valued.

 

[1] Boren, Cindy. 2015. “Why Missouri Football Players Are Going on Strike; University President Won’t Quit.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2015/11/08/why-missouri-football-players-are-going-on-strike/ (May 5, 2016).

[2] Advocates for Youth. “Glossary.” http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/607-glossary (May 4, 2016).

[3] Manne, Kate. 2015. “Why I Use Trigger Warnings.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/opinion/sunday/why-i-use-trigger-warnings.html (May 4, 2016).

[4] Brooks, David. 2016. “The Shame Culture.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/15/opinion/the-shame-culture.html?_r=0 (May 4, 2016).

 

[5] Lukianoff, Greg, and Jonathan Haidt. 2015. “The Coddling of the American Mind.” The Atlantic Monthly. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/ (May 4, 2016).

[6] Brooks, David. 2016. “The Shame Culture.”

[7] Bloom, Allan. 1987. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster.  p. 154

[8] Ibid p. 67

[9] Brooks, David. 2016. “The Shame Culture.”

[10] Arendt, Hannah. 1972. Crises of the Republic. p. 94

[11] Ibid p. 101

[12] Ibid p. 28

[13] Ibid p. 140

[14] Corey, David. 2005. “Socratic Citizenship: Delphic Oracle and Divine Sign.” The Review of Politics 67(2): 201–28. p. 219

[15] Arendt, Hannah. 1972. Crises of the Republic. p. 60

[16] Ibid p. 65

 

Featured Image is University of Minnesota students protest against hate speech , by Fibonacci Blue

Read the whole story
adamgurri
24 days ago
reply
New York, NY
Share this story
Delete

Hawaii

1 Comment and 17 Shares
Ok, I've got it, just need to plug in my security key. Hmm, which way does the USB go? Nope, not that way. I'll just flip it and– OH JEEZ IT FELL INTO THE VENT.
Read the whole story
adamgurri
29 days ago
reply
New York, NY
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
Covarr
29 days ago
reply
and just think, if his password was hunter2 he would've remembered it.
Moses Lake, WA
djmitche
25 days ago
If his password was what? I just see "*******"
Next Page of Stories