Sunday, October 11, 2015

Thoughts/reaction to an interesting J. Goldberg - T. Burrus discussion

A very intelligent conversation/interview with a conservative-libertarian focus between Jonah Goldberg and Trevor Burrus can be found here: . There is enough to chew on here for multiple posts, but I wish to consider at least a few of the points discussed.

Towards the beginning of the interview Jonah talks about why attempts at a conservative slanted Jon Stewart type program have failed. His answer is a nice example of modes. Comedy fits within the poetic mode, that is something done for the thing itself. In contrast, the practical mode is all about transforming a current condition, to do x in order to bring about some improved change in circumstance. The failure that Jonah notes is the practical mode being applied to what should be a poetic mode activity; it is an ignoratio elenchi or a category error. And another example of the same error can be found in Lenny Bruce, when his standup routine became a vehicle for his re-litigating his legal difficulties.

At one point Jonah says that “fusionism is philosophically flawed” and it would be interesting to know what he means by the term philosophical flaw. In On Human Conduct—and elsewhere—Michael Oakeshott posits two ideal poles of government, civil association and enterprise association and makes clear that he considers that one without the other is untenable. Goldberg states that he’d accept (right word?) libertarianism if it weren’t for foreign policy and children. Oakeshott’s civil association is akin to a libertarian government and it is clearly his preference, but he notes it is incapable of defending itself and I believe he also thinks the poor are a problem for civil association (my guess is that he would consider children in regard to politics to come under the umbrella of their parents/guardians). So would Mr. Goldberg regard this indeterminancy, that political activity takes place between two ideal poles, as a “philosophical flaw?”

Towards the end of the interview, the host brings up a George Lakoff statement that “the problem with liberals [read progressives] is that we’re too rational” and in large part dismisses it by saying “no one thinks we’re irrational.” I think Mr. Burress has missed the mark here in thinking that the contrast with “rational” is irrational. If Lakoff is using rational in the sense of rationalist than the oppositions are pragmatism, idealism, existentialism, etc and I think he’s pointing to a real and important flaw. For example, the progressive doesn’t acknowledge Chesterton’s fence, because guided by rationalism it is of no account.

Finally, Jonah Goldberg talks about the palpable, current discontent and brings up the almost across the globe protests in 1968. He suggests that the current situation is rooted in technology getting out ahead of where we are. It’s an interesting take and in many respects I probably agree. But perhaps influenced by Jacques Barzun, I think it indicates an era coming to a close. The understandings and beliefs which supported the modern world have been picked over so thoroughly that there is nothing left; the parasitical activity of thought has killed the host.

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