“A worthwhile university or college is quite simply one..

… in which the student is brought into personal contact with, is made vulnerable to, the aura and the threat of the first-class. In the most direct sense, this is a matter of proximity, of sight and hearing. The institution, particularly in the humanities, should not be too large. The scholar, the significant teacher ought to be readily visible. We cross his or her daily path. The consequence, as in the Periclean polis, in medieval Bologna, or nineteenth-century Tubingen, is one of implosive and cumulative contamination. The whole is energized beyond its eminent parts…

What could, by the lights of the utilitarian or hedonistic commonwealth, be more irrational, more against the grain of common sense, than to devote one’s existence to, say, the conservation and classification of archaic Chinese bronzes, or to the solution of Fermat’s last theorem…

In the critical mass of a successful academic community, the orbits of individual obsessions will cross and re-cross. Once he has collided with them, the student will forget neither their luminosity nor their menace to complacency…”


George Steiner (1929-2020), from Errata.

‘Roger respected other cultures a great deal more than most progressives of my acquaintance do. He learned Arabic in order to read the Quran, and he admired the tradition-transcending contributions of the great medieval Islamic philosophers. He made careful, in-depth studies of Hindu and other Eastern traditions of faith precisely in search of the wisdom he regarded them as possessing.’

Appraisals of the late philosopher Roger Scruton keep appearing. Some people dismiss him as a reactionary; others, like Robert George, see things differently.

‘“She’s a real intellectual,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Open Markets Institute, who has worked with Warren and her team on their anti-trust tech proposals.’

The kiss of death for longtime UD favorite, Elizabeth Warren. It’s going to be close to impossible for her to dig herself out of the “she’s an intellectual” hole.

‘In About Chinese Women (1974), Kristeva, for her part, carried this uniquely French “pro-Chinese” mania to unprecedented heights. She disqualified all Western criticism of postrevolutionary China as suffused with illicit cultural bias. And she rationalized the traditional Chinese custom of “foot binding” — ignoring its debilitating and disfiguring consequences for millions of Chinese women — as a legitimate local cultural practice, comparable to ritual circumcision in Judaism. In fact, when perceived in the right light, Kristeva continued, foot binding constituted an emblem of Chinese female empowerment.’

Was Julia Kristeva a spy for the Bulgarian communists?

Who cares. This is what we should care about – that a serious intellectual, in an early version of similar defenses today of the burqa, was capable of writing that forced female foot-binding in China was, you know, fine for them, and even empowering.

Reflecting on [the radical journal] Tel Quel’s delusional infatuation with Cultural Revolutionary China, the French-American essayist Guy Sorman faults them for having succumbed to the temptations of a “boundless amoralism”: an “amoralism” that is inseparable from a distinctively French tradition of “revolutionary romanticism.” He continues: “What links the French intelligentsia to tyrants such as Stalin, Mao, Castro has very little to do with the quest for liberty, justice, and democracy. Such values were dismissed as suitable for dopes and stooges. … Our intelligentsia adored revolutionary violence and the aesthetics of violence. Was it not this spectacle of revolution that attracted Sartre, Barthes, and company?”

Anyone who has read Richard Rorty’s shattering attacks on radical theorists knows what happened next for Kristeva. Richard Wolin writes:

Kristeva … responded to her [earlier] political excesses by renouncing politics in toto — including feminism — as inherently totalitarian: as a sphere that perpetually sacrifices individuals to the injustices and repressions of the “collective superego.” As she explained in a 1989 interview: “We must try not to propose global models. I think that we, then, risk making politics into a sort of religion. … Of the political there is already too much.” Instead of striving for political solutions, Kristeva recommended that everyone who could afford it should enter into psychoanalysis — her new field of professional expertise.

Rorty spent his life preaching against radically transformative “global models” and in favor of pragmatic incremental change within particular countries. Even with the catastrophe of Bulgaria and other revolutionary states in front of her, Kristeva opted to go global — until she didn’t. Until in a kind of reverse-thrust globalism – one of absolute withdrawal rather than absolute embrace – she took her toys and went home.

Active Research

In the late 1980s, crusading against pornography was a top priority for evangelicals. Mr. Hybels told Ms. Baranowski that he had been told to educate himself on the issue by James Dobson, founder of the ministry Focus on the Family, who had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan to an anti-pornography commission.

Calling it research, Mr. Hybels once instructed Ms. Baranowski to go out and rent several pornographic videos, she said, to her great embarrassment. He insisted on watching them with her, she said, while he was dressed in a bathrobe.

First its literary editor; and now its publisher.

Hereafter known as The Lewd Republic.

Stats, Wieseltier

As for [Leon] Wieseltier, the longtime New Republic literary editor who lost funding for a magazine startup, he “simply did not consider women to be public intellectuals,” wrote Clio Chang in Splinter.

He harassed women, according to credible accusations, but he rarely published them or chose for review books written by women: “The lowest points were in 2012 — when there were only nine female reviewers compared to 79 male reviewers — and in 2013, when Wieseltier’s section published four reviews written by women.”

Sing …

… it.

I am the very model of a modern major predator
I squeeze the tits of everyone from copy girl to editor
When I attack I’m confident that no one else will credit her
And if they do then I consult a first-rate lawsuit settler

From Weseltier to Ramadan we’re very ecumenical
In public we are sober, wise, and rather homiletical
But privately we turn out to be somewhat less ascetical
For we must not forget that we have penises and testicles

I’m very good at hiding out behind a piece of shrubbery
Then jumping out and treating you to genitalia rub-ery
And now that my behavior is a matter of discovery
I’m getting very penitent and sorrowful and blubbery.

“What matters to me is that one identifies one’s genuine obsessions, one’s genuine commitments, one’s genuine appetites, one pursues them seriously and far.”

Leon Wieseltier stayed true to his obsessions, even up to his mid-sixties.

Then they caught up with him.


His partner uses the withdrawal method.

Breaking News Out of Baylor University:

In honor of its last generation of leaders, Baylor has announced that it has changed both its mascot (a bear) and its motto (Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana).

New mascot is here.

New motto: Magnae Parvum Nuces Cerebrum (Big Nuts Small Brain)


UD thanks Dame Eleanor Hull for correcting her Latin.

Going Postal

A judge has granted an alleged pill mill operator’s request to travel to the University of Richmond’s law library to fine tune his claim that federal courts have no jurisdiction over him because in 1874 the United States joined the Universal Postal Union.

On May 22, he filed a document with the court titled “Response to the Indictment” that says in part: “I do not accept this jurisdiction According to the treaties in which the United States Corporation signed when joining the Universal Postal Union this court is violating International Law. You are hereby compelled to cease and desist on any further action.”

He wrote that he [is an], “American National privately residing in a private domicile outside of Federal District in a non-military private estate located outside of a federal District not subject to the jurisdiction of the ‘United States.’ ”

There’s plenty of intriguing precedent for this sort of thing; and, speaking as an English professor, UD is impressed that the man has clearly read his Thomas Pynchon.

Compare McGill’s hysteria over…

this (hysteria here) to Harvard’s reaction to this.

Now they’re free to focus on serious intellectuals.

Since Mr. Trump took office in January, immigration authorities have engaged in several high-profile actions against immigrants. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that the president wanted to “take the shackles off” of agents who had, under President Barack Obama, been under orders to focus only on serious criminals.

Branch Davidians, Biker Shootouts (w/ Child Pornography), and Campus Gang Rapes.

Where else but Waco would you want your kid to go to college?

Derek Parfit, Moral Philosopher, Has Died.

Here is a long New Yorker profile of him. UD’s favorite part is not about Parfit, but about one of his friends.

If [Bernard Williams] had a highest value, it was authenticity. To him, the self was, in the end, all we have. But, in most cases, this wasn’t much — most people were stupid and cruel. Williams enjoyed his life, but he was a pessimist of the bleakest sort. He told a student that the last stanza of Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach” summed up his view of things:

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain . . .


What [Parfit] found most disturbing was Williams’s view of meta-ethics. Williams believed that there were no objectively true answers to questions of right and wrong, or even to questions of prudence. To him, morality was a human system that arose from human wants and remained dependent on them. This didn’t mean that people felt any less fiercely about moral questions—if someone felt that cruelty was vile, he could believe it wholeheartedly even if he didn’t think that that vileness was an objective fact, like two plus two equals four. But, to Parfit, if it wasn’t true that cruelty was wrong, then the feeling that it was vile was just a psychological fact—flimsy, contingent, apt to be forgotten.

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