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.

In case you’re still keeping track of whether Heidegger was REALLY TRULY SCOUT’S HONOR anti-semitic…

… or just, you know, philosophically antisemitic, we’ve got this newly released correspondence with his brother.

[T]hese personal letters … expose him as a bona fide, unrepentant anti-Semite. They also show that — in contrast to prevailing beliefs — the Freiburg professor was politically well informed, and was an early and passionate supporter of National Socialism… As the letters now show beyond doubt, this was in no way the decision of an opportunistic careerist or the oblivious aberration of a political ignorant — as has been argued for decades in the philosopher’s defense. The familiar apologetic assumption that Heidegger adhered to a private, idiosyncratic notion of National Socialism, allegedly free from any form of racism, should be laid to rest.

God and Man at Trump University

Jonathan Chait writes:

Trump has … exposed [a] deep insecurity among right-wing intellectuals: the fear that their movement appeals to rubes. The conservative movement’s tightening grip over the Republican Party has coincided with its elevation of leaders incapable of explaining their policies cogently. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin all drew the disdain of liberal elites for their reliance on simplistic aphorisms and poor grasp of detail, humiliating conservative intellectuals, who defended the keen minds of their heroes. Whether or not Donald Trump the human being is intelligent, there’s no question that “Donald Trump,” presidential candidate, is not. His entire campaign operates well below the level of rational thought — it’s all boasting, absurd promises, repetitive sloganeering, and abuse. Just as email scammers intentionally salt their messages with typos in order to weed out anyone educated enough to see through their swindle, allowing them to focus on the most gullible, Trump seems to consciously repel anyone possessed of a brain.

It has indeed been strange, over the years, for UD to read impassioned defenses of people like Sarah Palin from people like Joseph Epstein:

Here is a woman raising five children who is able not only to have an active hand in the life of her community but actually win the highest political office in her state. As the governor of Alaska, moreover, she took on the corrupt elements in her own party, which requires courage …

Once a Northwestern University literature professor, once editor of American Scholar, Epstein of all contemporary essayists has prided himself on his own high literacy and his championing of only the most cogent and brilliant of writers (Henry James in particular). It was remarkable to UD — who knew Epstein when she attended Northwestern and found him as scrupulous a speaker, writer, and cultural critic as most of his published work suggests — it was remarkable to find him, in 2008, employing his pellucid writing in service to Palin.

If the founder of Trump University becomes the Republican nominee, as seems likely, it will be interesting to see which Epsteins step up to spend their intellectual capital on him.

Only Living State of Alabama Intellectual Tells All

Meet State Senator Paul Bussman.

“We have a ridiculous ability to come into this chamber and talk about football,” said Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman. “I’m ashamed to be in this body right now.”

A corporate board hog, an enemy of free speech, and now…

… for Phyllis Wise’s latest achievement: As the recently appointed chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, she has, in four short years, shepherded her school to Number One on the nation’s top party school list.

Background on Wise, whose jocklove also contributed to her school’s triumph, here.

I’m sure they miss her at the University of Washington.

UD thanks John.


Update on her winning faculty recruitment strategies.

This nation’s highest paid ethics professor…

… gets it said.


UD thanks John for the link.

New Student Orientation Reading, Baylor University.

They’re here. They’re armed. Get used to it.

Ride ’em Cowboy!

Life of the mind, North Dakota.

A legislative appropriation intended for academic grants has been used to fund athletic scholarships… Dickinson State University [used] …$16,000 for the Rick Enderud Rodeo Scholarship.

Life of the Mind, United States of America.

[Florida State University president] John Thrasher — a career politician who is now the chief decision-maker at the nation’s most disliked football-playing university — [grabbed] his coach in a very giddy, very public embrace.

Earlier, Thrasher had released a statement blasting The New York Times for a report Friday describing how two starters on the Florida State defense ran from the scene of a late-night car accident in October and were given what seemed to be preferential treatment by Tallahassee police officers.

It was merely the latest in a long string of headlines that has brought endless cynicism about the kind of operation Florida State has been running off the field while beating everybody on it for now 26 straight games.

But here at Sun Life Stadium, moments after No. 2 Florida State finished off yet another comeback to beat Miami 30-26, you could at least envision why people like Thrasher and Fisher may be able to rationalize all the enabling and justifying of behavior other schools at least pretend to care about.

The harder the nation roots for Florida State to fall, the more self-fulfilling life becomes in the Tallahassee bubble. The Seminoles aren’t running from their identity as escape artists; in fact, they’re practically scripting it before it ever happens.

Good ol’ Florida State U…. They just got them a good ol’ boy for prez; they got “Jesus” Jameis Winston for local hero…

… They got so many good things! Got Gonul Colak.

(Well, his name don’t show up on their finance page, so I guess they ain’t got him anymore.)

Almost got a chiropractic school – the same good ol’ boy who now runs the place backed it big time (he was then a trustee) – but outraged actual scientists on the faculty managed to shut down the idea. Bet it gets a second life, now that the good ol’ boy who backed it runs the whole joint.

On top of all that good stuff, they got the wonderfully named Sanford Lovingood (see his sun-kissed, kinda-ashamed mug shot here), FSU booster club comptroller who has been stealing hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars from fan donations.

Oh, but don’t call it stealing. Lovingood had in mind to pay every penny back:

He told investigators [he] planned to repay the money by willing property that he owned back to the Boosters.

See now once he died and all he was gonna give FSU his, like, his houses and all..

Andrew Sullivan on Commentary Magazine.

Commentary is a propaganda sheet, directed, as degenerate movements often are, by a beneficiary of nepotism, in order to advance a moribund ideology and the interests of one faction in a foreign country. It’s an almost text-book case of intellectual decline and fall.

As recently as May, he gave remarks…

… at an all-Berlioz concert in his honor in San Antonio, where he had lived for many years.

Jacques Barzun is dead at 104.

Important Announcement from the Chief Academic Officer of Mississippi State University!

Read carefully, because there are many nuances.

Jurgen Habermas on the European Union

Habermas spells out precisely why he sees Europe as a project for civilization that must not be allowed to fail, and why the “global community” is not only feasible, but also necessary to reconcile democracy with capitalism. Otherwise, as he puts it, we run the risk of a kind of permanent state of emergency — otherwise the countries will simply be driven by the markets.

… [Why does Habermas take] the topic of Europe so personally[?]. It has to do with the evil Germany of yesteryear and the good Europe of tomorrow, with the transformation of past to future, with a continent that was once torn apart by guilt — and is now torn apart by debt.

“A stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.”

Paul Krugman says what UD‘s thought as she’s watched Newt Gingrich over many, many years.

Gingrich has the worst traits of the worst stereotypical professor: Vain, irritable, cynical, superior, verbally fat and polemically thin.

Yet stupid people read his fast-talking smooth-operator thing as smart; they think being a smug and dismissive know-it-all is what it means to be a smart person.


On the first – and last – day that Mr UD attended one particular graduate course offered by the University of Chicago, the professor cast his eye ’round the seminar table and began the semester with the following statement: “You’re looking at the world’s most distinguished living political philosopher.” That’s a stupid person’s idea of a smart person – farcical self-regard plus a James Deen-hard conviction that you’re right about everything.


UPDATE: This is what a smart person sounds like.

At a Natural Resources Committee hearing Friday on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) mistakenly addressed the professor as “Dr. Rice“ while calling his testimony ”garbage.”

Brinkley interrupted, saying: “It’s Dr. Brinkley, Rice is a university,“ and ”I know you went to Yuba [Community College in California] and couldn’t graduate — ”

Then it was Young’s turn to interrupt. “I’ll call you anything I want to call you when you sit in that chair,” he told the witness. “You just be quiet.”

Brinkley countered: “You don’t own me. I pay your salary. I work for the private sector and you work for the taxpayer.”

I recognize that Brinkley looks pretty irritable and self-regarding in this exchange. But I’d like to suggest that there are good reasons for his insolence, having had his ideas called garbage by a congressional bully. Young insults not just Brinkley, but the entire discussion, calling it “futile.” He calls Brinkley an elitist when it is Young (“I’ll call you anything I want to call you…”) who’s the elitist throughout the exchange. Brinkley’s what a smart guy sounds like when he’s speaking truth back to power (“You just be quiet.” – Infantilizing power at that.). Brinkley is one of Paul Fussell’s X‘s – people “impelled by insolence, intelligence, irony, and spirit.” Gingrich may share the insolence, but the rest of his list is very different.

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