It’s finally, really Opening Day! I’ve been at work all weekend on my presentation for Friday’s “Baseball in Literature & Culture” conference, as reassuring a sign of spring as I could want. “Coming Home” is my theme, and after so many years this annual event – like the pastime it celebrates – has itself come to feel like home.
Today in CoPhi we’ll talk Immanuel Kant (and Adrian Moore on Kant’s metaphysics), Jeremy Bentham, Richard Bourke on ancestral conservative Edmund Burke, and Carlin Romano on (among other things) political correctness.
Bentham was an extremely amusing man, and in many respects rather boyish. Most of his life he retained an instinctive horror of being left alone… He had a large black tom cat of an ‘uncommonly serious temperament’ which he nicknamed the ‘Doctor’ and ‘The Reverend Doctor Langborn’… He had amusing names for his daily activities and favourite objects. His favourite walking stick was called Dapple, after Sancho Panza’s mule, and his ‘sacred tea-pot’ was called Dick. His daily routine included ‘antejentacular circumgyration’ or a walk before breakfast, an ‘anteprandial circumgyration’ before dinner, and an ‘ignominious expulsion’ at midnight accompanied by the ‘putter-to-bed’, the ‘asportation of the candle’ and the ‘transportation of the window.’
Create all the happiness you are able to create: remove all the misery you are able to remove. Every day will allow you, will invite you, to add something to the pleasure of others, or to diminish something of their pains. And for every grain of enjoyment you sow in the bosom of another, you shall find a harvest in your own…
According to one anecdote, the fastidious Immanuel Kant, whose daily routine was so rigid and undeviating that people set their watches by him, became so absorbed in Émile that he bewildered his neighbors by forgetting to take his usual post-lunch constitutional… Rousseau understood, he thought, the paradox of autonomy—that freedom meant conformity to a rule. As he was writing his own masterpiece, the Critique of Pure Reason, he had a single portrait in his house—of Jean- Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau’s Dog
“We should look back to the critic Gilbert Seldes for the principles of the democratized, brow-removed culture we’ve become–at least outside of philosophy… Only in philosophy have the high/low binaries continued to rule, with professors typically belittling popular thinking…”
Not guilty. I’m definitely not one of those hostile turf-guarding epistemological alpha male academics. I’m Open Court‘s biggest fan.
The PC debate of recent years was kinda silly, and widely misunderstood. Of course we should try to be “correct,” not because the keepers of culture will slap us for violating their proprieties but because correct, properly understood, means right. Or at least, honest.
What is political correctness, exactly? It’s become a slippery term, but the people’s encyclopedia has it pretty much right I think:
Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term that refers to language, ideas, or policies that address perceived or actual discrimination against or alienation of politically, socially or economically disadvantaged groups. The term usually implies that these social considerations are excessive or of a purely “political” nature. These groups most prominently include those defined by gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability.
Common sense is the ultimate correction here. “Not a common sense in which everyone [thinks] the same” (etc.) but one with no bulldozing. Here’s a wise and timely tweet from HDT, to the point:
“Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe.” #Thoreau #Quote Henry David Thoreau @ThoreauPage
And I almost forgot: I’m not a big fan of Burke, with his defense of aristocracy and the 1% solution. But I do love the quote from him that most everybody knows: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If he said it. I know he didn’t say one of the other things commonly and falsely attributed to him on the Internet: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
That last is actually a misquotation of Santayana. Or maybe Abe Lincoln. But don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.
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