If civility of tone has a purpose, it is to maintain conditions under which proper argument can commence; thus it is not itself a component of proper argument.
A Quarto of Rand(om)ness
Ayn Rand’s Long Journey to the Heart of American Politics, by Jennifer Burns
Rand had always insisted that her ideas were a package deal. Libertarians who borrowed her political ideas but didn’t buy her epistemology were “a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people,” “plagiarizers,” and “scum.” Conservatives were far, far worse. “Futile, impotent and culturally dead,” conservatives could only “accelerate this country’s uncontested collapse into despair and dictatorship.” Despite their agreement on capitalism, unlike most conservatives Rand was a forthright atheist who supported abortion rights and opposed the Vietnam War. After her death, her philosophy was liberated from its origins; it was now possible to mix and match bits and pieces of Rand’s ideology to better fit the emerging conservative worldview.
Years before Roe v. Wade, Rand called abortion “a moral right which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved.” She condemned the military draft and American involvement in Vietnam. She warned against recreational drugs but thought government had no right to ban them. These aspects of Rand do not fit with a political view that weds fiscal and social conservatism.
Rand’s political philosophy remained amorphous in her early years. Aside from a revulsion at communism, her primary influence was Nietzsche, whose exaltation of the superior individual spoke to her personally. She wrote of one of the protagonists of her stories that “he does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people”; and she meant this as praise.
Rand wrote novels that are highly unlikely to be read and taught in departments of English. Her subject was the market, but no academic economists take her seriously, unless, of course, wealthy libertarians offer funds for that purpose. She considered herself an Aristotelian, but it is impossible to imagine departments of philosophy and political science adding her to the canon.
For those under Rand’s spell, all this is just more evidence of academe’s irrelevance. For me it demonstrates that, for all the attacks directed against it, American academic life still has standards.
The Flounce Song, posted by Jim Macdonald
The variations in the comments are better than the original song, in some cases, but it’s close.
Major figures in Christian history—including Origen, Clement, Augustine, Jerome, and Thomas Aquinas—considered literal readings of Genesis to be a sign that one was uneducated. Faced with evidence in nature that contradicted a certain reading of the Bible, all of them decided that the only sensible response was to adjust how they read the Bible. In their view, nature clearly showed the way things were, so any discrepancy had to lie with one’s understanding of scripture. It actually wasn’t until the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s that literalism became prominent.
[Romney] must agree with Mencken that no one goes broke underestimating the American intelligence.
In the past the Todd Akins of America could take to local stages, local media, and spew their ignorance with impunity, as fact. They were rewarded for it, as Akin has been up to this point. They were supported by people who were just as ignorant as they were. Whatever gaff they made was contained, limited in scope. Hidden from the greater world, a needle in a pile of hay chaff.
Now, as Todd Akin found out Sunday, when you speak nonsense, increasingly it goes viral. Millions of Americans see it almost instantly.
As they should.
Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. Black America ever lives under that skeptical eye. Hence the old admonishments to be “twice as good.” Hence the need for a special “talk” administered to black boys about how to be extra careful when relating to the police. And hence Barack Obama’s insisting that there was no racial component to Katrina’s effects; that name-calling among children somehow has the same import as one of the oldest guiding principles of American policy—white supremacy. The election of an African American to our highest political office was alleged to demonstrate a triumph of integration. But when President Obama addressed the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, he demonstrated integration’s great limitation—that acceptance depends not just on being twice as good but on being half as black. And even then, full acceptance is still withheld. The larger effects of this withholding constrict Obama’s presidential potential in areas affected tangentially—or seemingly not at all—by race. Meanwhile, across the country, the community in which Obama is rooted sees this fraudulent equality, and quietly seethes.
I don’t want to waste another second thinking about Todd Akin, and his theory that you can’t get pregnant unless your eggs are asking for it. Here’s the only thing you need to know about Todd Akin and human anatomy: he’s an asshole. What I want to talk about is how it’s not a coincidence that the party of fundamentalism is also the party of fantasy. When I say religion is a mental illness, this is what I mean: it corrodes your mental faculties to the point where you can believe in tiny ninja warriors who hide in vaginas and lie in wait for bad people’s sperm.
The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.
Eventually a person gets to the point where they can longer withstand the constant blitzkrieg of bullshit. So, Steve King, Todd Akin, and shouty Twitter conservatives: you win. Rape outrage limit reached. I have given this all of my fucks, and the fucks I have given are still not enough fucks. So many more fucks need to be given, and I have exhausted my fuck supply. The fucks are on backorder. Employees are working overtime to restock my fucks, but in the meantime, please accept this 10% off coupon while we wait for the fucks to arrive via FedEx. I’ll be over here, drinking wine from a Pac Man mug and watching cartoons.
Republicans: Do your friends make fun of you for your shameful lack of awareness on women’s issues? Have to vote on a bill that will legislate uteruses but not quite sure you know what that word means? Well, look no further—this quiz will help hone your lady-legislating skills with expert knowledge from your peers. Remember to use a number-two pencil, and no looking at your neighbor’s paper.
Of the historic meeting of James Joyce and Marcel Proust at a Paris dinner party (also attended by Stravinsky and Picasso) Mr. Brown notes that Joyce arrived after coffee, “drunk and shabby, swaying from side to side.” Proust, he reports, arrived at 2:30 a.m., looking, as one dinner guest recalled, “as though he had seen a light in a friend’s window and had just come up on the chance of finding him awake.
Where do we find the reasonable rather than the rationalistic? Above all, in the various ways in which we are educated in “imaginative love for people we do not know or whom we know very slightly”; in a broadly conceived, long-term commitment to building this kind of loving understanding – in fact, in what has often been called a “liberal education”.
People use science fiction to illustrate philosophy all the time. From ethical quandaries to the very nature of existence, science fiction’s most famous texts are tailor-made for exploring philosophical ideas. In fact, many college campuses now offer courses in the philosophy of science fiction.
But science fiction doesn’t just illuminate philosophy — in fact, the genre grew out of philosophy, and the earliest works of science fiction were philosophical texts.
A century ago, the Italian writer Edmondo de Amicis, visiting Istanbul, described his perception of fast-breaking moment: “On the instant, thirty two thousand teeth tear a thousand huge mouths-full from a thousand loaves! But why say a thousand when in every house and café and restaurant is being enacted at precisely the same moment, and for a short time, the Turkish city is nothing but a huge monster whose hundred thousand jaws are all tearing and devouring at once.” You say monster, I say community. There’s no tradition of monastic orders in Islam; instead, for one month out of every year, every observant Muslim becomes an ascetic. The simultaneity of this and other Muslim rituals is Islam’s way of fostering fellowship, mass sympathy, and a powerful sense of solidarity that works even without interaction; just passing an obviously Muslim person on the street, you know you’re in it together.
There is no doubt, however, that single motherhood can be more difficult than other kinds of motherhood. In France, the response to the added difficulty is to give single mothers preferential access to excellent day care. Here the response is moralism disguised as concern and, at other times, simply moralism.
While a man is allowed to just wear clothes, a woman is assumed to be engaging in fashion whether she wants to be or not. She’s wearing a pantsuit to tell the world she’s strong like a man! Except it’s tailored, so she wants you to know she’s sexy, except it’s got a scarf, because she’s prudish. Except it’s got a peplum, because she’s trendy, which also makes her shallow. Except it’s consignment, because she’s thrifty, but it’s Dior, because she’s vain.
But the thing is, having a son who is into princesses isn’t what makes me wish for a more accepting and encouraging society. Just simply having a son at all, two of them in fact, with a daughter in between, is. Because it’s not about equality for boys who want to wear pink, or girls who want to play football. It’s not even just about equality for marriage rights and respect under the law. Equality isn’t an issue that only benefits one group or another. When we treat each other as equals, with equal opportunities and equal rights, everyone’s chance to find happiness improves. Above all, most parents want their kids to be happy and healthy. We want them to be treated as fairly as possible, even in a world that is notoriously unfair. We want them to have every opportunity to succeed, not just in their careers, but in every facet of their lives.