June 21, 2013, 9:13 pm

The Joy Of Start Points

David Brooks clearly hadn’t read Ben Schmidt’s excellent analysis of the humanities crisis before writing today’s op-ed piece. Brooks argues that the humanities are going downhill because their practitioners have lost all passion for the topic:

The humanist’s job was to cultivate this ground — imposing intellectual order upon it, educating the emotions with art in order to refine it, offering inspiring exemplars to get it properly oriented.

Somewhere along the way, many people in the humanities lost faith in this uplifting mission. The humanities turned from an inward to an outward focus. They were less about the old notions of truth, beauty and goodness and more about political and social categories like race, class and gender. Liberal arts professors grew more moralistic when talking about politics but more tentative about private morality because they didn’t want to offend an…

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November 15, 2012, 11:01 pm

Eisenhower and Summersby

Eisenhower at the German surrender. Summersby in the background

Oh shoot. Almost immediately after nobly declaiming on how too many blog posts are about “someone is wrong on the Internet” I find myself writing another one, this time about the historical parallels between the Petraueus scandal and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s relationship with Kay Summersby. Amy Davidson, at the New Yorker, argues that comparing the two is “sophistry.” Davidson starts with the quite reasonable argument that:

Is it good that a scandal about Eisenhower didn’t disrupt the war in Europe? Yes, but that means we were lucky, not that Ike did everything right. It’s a reason to be glad that an earlier general was reasonably careful about his (still alleged) affair—not to give a later one license to cheat.

She is exactly right. The “everyone is doing it” defense is not one that carries much weight past, well,…

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