廷龍政經閱讀: The Week of May 6, 2012
本週的媒體熱鬧非凡，可惜沒有任何值得讀兩遍的文章。推薦閱讀Allan Bloom的書The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students（走向封閉的美國精神：高等教育何以導致民主失敗且令莘莘學子心靈窮困）。這本上世紀八十年代在美國位居暢銷書榜首的書，相信很多讀者早已讀過。pdf版本可以在這裡下載。
The use of words like “creativity” and “personality” does not mean that those who use them understand the thought that made their use necessary, let alone agree with it. The language has been trivialized. Words that were meant to describe and encourage Beethoven and Goethe are now applied to every schoolchild. It is in the nature of democracy to deny no one access to good things. If those things are really not accessible to all, then the tendency is to deny the fact—simply to proclaim, for example, that what is not art is art. There is in American society a mad rush to distinguish oneself, and, as soon as something has been accepted as distinguishing, to package it in such a way that everyone can feel included. Creativity and personality were intended to be terms of distinction. They were, as a matter of fact, intended to be the distinctions appropriate to egalitarian society, in which all distinction is threatened. The leveling of these distinctions through familiarity merely encourages self-satisfaction. Now that they belong to everyone, they can be said to mean nothing, both in common parlance and in the social science disciplines that use them as “concepts.” They have no specific content, are a kind of opiate of the masses.
There are two kinds of openness, the openness of indifference—promoted with the twin purposes of humbling our intellectual pride and letting us be whatever we want to be, just as long as we don’t want to be knowers—and the openness that invites us to the quest for knowledge and certitude, for which history and the various cultures provide a brilliant array of examples for examination. This second kind of openness encourages the desire that animates and makes interesting every serious student—”I want to know what is good for me, what will make me happy”—while the former stunts that desire. Openness, as currently conceived, is a way of making surrender to whatever is most powerful, or worship of vulgar success, look principled. It is historicism’s ruse to remove all resistance to history, which in our day means public opinion, a day when public opinion already rules.
On sexual liberation:
The immediate promise of sexual liberation was, simply, happiness understood as the release of energies that had been stored up over millennia during the dark night of repression, in a great continuous Bacchanalia. However, the lion roaring behind the door of the closet turned out, when the door was opened, to be a little, domesticated cat.
On technical education:
The impression that our general populace is better educated [than in the past] depends on an ambiguity in the meaning of the word education, or a fudging of the distinction between liberal and technical education. A highly trained computer specialist need not have had any more learning about morals, politics or religion than the most ignorant of persons. All to the contrary, his narrow education, with, the prejudices and the pride accompanying it, and its literature which comes to be and passes away in a day and uncritically accepts the premises of current wisdom, can cut him off from the liberal learning that simpler folk used to absorb from a variety of traditional sources.
On music and education:
Education is not sermonizing to children against their instincts and pleasures, but providing a natural continuity between what they feel and what they can and should be. But this is a last art.
Man … was supposed to long to be all virtue, to break free from the chains of bodily desire. Wholeness would be happiness. … Machiavelli turned things upside down. Happiness is indeed wholeness, so let’s try the wholeness available to us in this life. The tradition viewed man as the incomprehensible and self-contradictory union of two substances, body and soul. Man cannot be conceived as body only. But if the function of whatever is not body in him is to cooperate in the satisfaction of bodily desire, then man’s dividedness is overcome.
The essence of philosophy is the abandonment of all authority in favor of individual human reason.