Archive for the ‘Philosophical Positions & Predicaments’ Category

Harriet Beecher Stowe on American Educational Policy

Friday, September 14th, 2012

“Poh!” said Alfred, “we’ll take care of that, in this country. We must set our face against all this educating, elevating talk, that is getting about now; the lower class must not be educated.”

“That is past praying for,” said Augustine; “educated they will be, and we have only to say how. Our system is educating them in barbarism and brutality. We are breaking all humanizing ties, and making them brute beasts; and, if they get the upper hand, such we shall find them.”

“They shall never get the upper hand!” said Alfred.

“That’s right,” said St. Clare; “put on the steam, fasten down the escape-valve, and sit on it, and see where you’ll land.”

“Well,” said Alfred, “we will see. I’m not afraid to sit on the escape-valve, as long as the boilers are strong, and the machinery works well.”

“The nobles in Louis XVI.’s time thought just so; and Austria and Pius IX. think so now; and, some pleasant morning, you may all be caught up to meet each other in the air, when the boilers burst.

Dies declarabit,” said Alfred, laughing.

“I tell you,” said Augustine, “if there is anything that is revealed with the strength of a divine law in our times, it is that the masses are to rise, and the under class become the upper one.”

“That’s one of your red republican humbugs, Augustine! Why didn’t you ever take to the stump;—you’d make a famous stump orator! Well, I hope I shall be dead before this millennium of your greasy masses comes on.”

“Greasy or not greasy, they will govern you, when their time comes,” said Augustine; “and they will be just such rulers as you make them. The French noblesse chose to have the people ‘sans culottes,’ and they had ‘sans culotte’ governors to their hearts’ content. The people of Hayti—”

“O, come, Augustine! as if we hadn’t had enough of that abominable, contemptible Hayti! The Haytiens were not Anglo Saxons; if they had been there would have been another story. The Anglo Saxon is the dominant race of the world, and is to be so.

“Well, there is a pretty fair infusion of Anglo Saxon blood among our slaves, now,” said Augustine. “There are plenty among them who have only enough of the African to give a sort of tropical warmth and fervor to our calculating firmness and foresight. If ever the San Domingo hour comes, Anglo Saxon blood will lead on the day. Sons of white fathers, with all our haughty feelings burning in their veins, will not always be bought and sold and traded. They will rise, and raise with them their mother’s race.”


“Well,” said Augustine, “there goes an old saying to this effect, ‘As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be;—they ate, they drank, they planted, they builded, and knew not till the flood came and took them.’”

“On the whole, Augustine, I think your talents might do for a circuit rider,” said Alfred, laughing. “Never you fear for us; possession is our nine points. We’ve got the power. This subject race,” said he, stamping firmly, “is down and shall stay down! We have energy enough to manage our own powder.”

“Sons trained like your Henrique will be grand guardians of your powder-magazines,” said Augustine,—”so cool and self-possessed! The proverb says, ‘They that cannot govern themselves cannot govern others.’”

“There is a trouble there” said Alfred, thoughtfully; “there’s no doubt that our system is a difficult one to train children under. It gives too free scope to the passions, altogether, which, in our climate, are hot enough. I find trouble with Henrique. The boy is generous and warm-hearted, but a perfect fire-cracker when excited. I believe I shall send him North for his education, where obedience is more fashionable, and where he will associate more with equals, and less with dependents.”

“Since training children is the staple work of the human race,” said Augustine, “I should think it something of a consideration that our system does not work well there.”

“It does not for some things,” said Alfred; “for others, again, it does. It makes boys manly and courageous; and the very vices of an abject race tend to strengthen in them the opposite virtues. I think Henrique, now, has a keener sense of the beauty of truth, from seeing lying and deception the universal badge of slavery.”

“A Christian-like view of the subject, certainly!” said Augustine.

“It’s true, Christian-like or not; and is about as Christian-like as most other things in the world,” said Alfred.

“That may be,” said St. Clare.

“Well, there’s no use in talking, Augustine. I believe we’ve been round and round this old track five hundred times, more or less. What do you say to a game of backgammon?”

The two brothers ran up the verandah steps, and were soon seated at a light bamboo stand, with the backgammon-board between them. As they were setting their men, Alfred said,—

“I tell you, Augustine, if I thought as you do, I should do something.”

“I dare say you would,—you are one of the doing sort,—but what?”

“Why, elevate your own servants, for a specimen,” said Alfred, with a half-scornful smile.

“You might as well set Mount Ætna on them flat, and tell them to stand up under it, as tell me to elevate my servants under all the superincumbent mass of society upon them. One man can do nothing, against the whole action of a community. Education, to do anything, must be a state education; or there must be enough agreed in it to make a current.”

—Harriet Becher Stowe
Uncle Tom’s Cabin

What Are They Reading at the New York Times?

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

We are experiencing global warming beyond the expectations of our scientists, as well as a global financial collapse that is being addressed with more of the policies that made it happen to begin with. As a drought wastes large parts of U.S. agriculture in the breadbasket of the country and the world, we may also anticipate a global food crisis. And not to be too gloomy, Israel, armed with nuclear weapons given to it by the U.S., talks bellicosity as usual.

Here’s what the New York Times lead off with on its book review page on Sunday, 12 August 2012:

Three Strong Women

In Marie NDiaye’s novel, women draw on reserves of love, common sense and even self-mockery to counteract the damage being done to them by narcissistic family members.

Sylvia Nasar: By the Book

The author of Grand Pursuit and A Beautiful Mind likes Victorian novelists for their deliciously wicked humor and the Russians for their political and philosophical musings.


Rachel Cusk’s latest memoir describes her divorce and what came next.

The Garden of Lost and Found
Reviewed by RON POWERS

In Dale Peck’s novel, a Midwesterner arrives in New York to claim his inheritance, a brownstone that may contain buried treasure.

Dare Me
Reviewed by CHELSEA CAIN

Megan Abbott’s latest thriller finds power, desire and revenge in the insular world of high school cheerleading.

Reversal of Fortunes

Michael J. Casey blames a “vast global financial system” for our economic malaise. Daniel Gross sees a brighter future ahead.

The Mansion of Happiness
Reviewed by DANI SHAPIRO

Jill Lepore traces American ideas about life and death, from before the cradle to beyond the grave.

The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City
Reviewed by FRED SIEGEL

Alan Ehrenhalt describes a demographic reversal, with the wealthy moving to cities and the working class moving to the suburbs.

Reviewed by LAURA KIPNIS

A sweeping cultural history of the ideal of sincerity.

Problems? What problems? Literature? What literature? What? Me, worry?

A Question

Monday, July 30th, 2012

According to this story, the Koch brothers have given $61 million to people who deny climate change. How much will they give me to deny George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s alcoholism?

Coming Up Next . . .

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Or go here.

Al Jazeera on OWS

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Or go here.

On the Project for a New American Century

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Moreover, there was no moral restraint which could keep this ambition under control. Intoxicated by victory, by the prestige which victory had given her, and of which her commerce, her industry, her science even, had reaped the benefit. Germany plunged into a material prosperity such as she had never known, such as she would never have dared dream of. She told herself that if force had wrought this miracle, if force had given her riches and honour, it was because force had within it a hidden virtue, mysterious — nay, divine. Yes, brute force with its train of trickery and lies, when it comes with powers of attack sufficient for the conquest of the world, must needs be in direct line from heaven and a revelation of the will of God on earth. The people to whom this power of attack had come were the elect, a chosen race by who side the others are race if bondmen. To such a race nothing is forbidden . . . Thus Germany, struck with wonder in presence of her victories, of the brute force which had been their means, of the material prosperity which was the outcome, translated her amazement into an idea. And see how, at the call of this idea, a thousand thoughts, as if awaked from slumber, and shaking off the dust of libraries, came rushing in from every side — thoughts which Germany had suffered to sleep among her poets and philosophers, every one which could lend a seductive or striking form to a conviction already made! Henceforth German imperialism had a theory of its own. Taught in schools and universities, it easily moulded itself to a nation already broken-in to passive obedience and having no loftier ideal wherewith to oppose the official doctrine. Many persons have explained the aberrations of German policy as due to that theory. For my part, I see in it nothing more than a philosophy doomed to translate into ideas what was, in its essence, insatiable ambition and will perverted by pride. The doctrine is an effect rather than a cause; and should the day come when Germany, conscious of her moral humiliation, shall say, to excuse herself, that she had trusted herself too much to certain theories, that an error of judgement is not a crime, it will then be necessary to remind her that her philosophy was simply a translation into intellectual terms of her brutality, her appetites, and her vices. So, too, in most cases, doctrines are the means by which nations and individuals seek to explain what they are and what they do.

— Henri Bergson
The Meaning of the War (1915)

Who Will Tell Francis Fukuyama that History Is Back?

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

First, some NYPD violence:

Scenes from Rome, London, Berlin . . .

Even in Tampa, Florida:

New York, 14 October 2011:

A New York protester, Thorin Caristo, explains why he is there:

And Becky Wartell joins in:

Thought for the Day, on Reading New York Times Coverage of the Occupation of Wall Street

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Money pollutes the mainstream media.

Statement of NY General Assembly (Occupy Wall Street)

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Courtesy of Keith Olbermann:

Or watch it here.

Resolution of 14 Sep 2011

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

I will not read anything written on the subjects of morality, good, evil, right, wrong, or war and warfare that addresses these issues in terms of good guys and bad guys. For example, Evil and Us by Alan Wolfe.