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What Enthusiasm for Oprah is Really About

What enthusiasm for Oprah is really about:

1. Pining for Obama through one of his more prominent fans;
2. The #metoo movement;
3. The state of liberalism;
4. Anxieties about Trump and the policy damage done by his administration and Republican allies (i.e. Trumpism);
5. Celebrity;
6. Per Jeremy Young, Oprah’s charisma; and,
7. Something new to discuss.

Of these, #7, #4, and #2 are in the top three. #1, #5, and #6 are in the air, for sure. For me, #3 should be the top topic.That would move us closer to solutions about this November and 2020.

What enthusiasm for Oprah is not about:

1. Her policies.


Notes on Hofstadter’s Philosophy of Education: Relevant Higher Ed Points

In the course of thinking about Richard Hofstadter’s philosophy of education (broadly), I just reread his 1968 Columbia University commencement address.[1] The primary existential event in relation to his address was the “forcible occupation” of Columbia buildings by war protestors. On that much has been written, none of it flattering to Hofstadter—with regard to his opinions about the protestors.

It is easy to understand how little might be revealed in the commencement about Hofstadter’s *broad* philosophy of education. I was hunting, in particular, for clues (and only clues or hints) about his own view of priorities for K-12. Nothing in particular came up—except the possibility that Hofstadter might view all of education via his experience in higher education.

Otherwise, two things struck me about the address in relation to Hofstadter’s view of higher education in U.S. life: Read more…

My 2017 Reading Review–and a Look Ahead

I read 24 books in 2017. Of those, 5 were old (i.e. rereads) and 19 were new to me. The new ones included 9 histories, 2 novels, 3 in philosophy, 1 biography, 2 on writing, 1 theological work, and 1 on higher ed.

This is a pretty typical book distribution for me: 50-60% in history and biography, 30% in philosophy and theology, and 10-20% novels.

The books that made the biggest impression on me were: Read more…

Two Brief, Final Thoughts on MacIntyre’s After Virtue

If you’re into moral philosophy–in terms of history and theory—this is your book.
The title derives from MacIntyre’s thesis of declension. He believes there is no valid moral philosophy after the decline in use of Aristotle in the West. The culprit, then, is Western modernity. (The entire book is about the West in particular.) I was somewhat surprised by two aspects of the work and author:
Read more…

Is it wrong that I find Rorty Fans annoying?

Here’s a reactionary sentiment with three prongs—one related to recent references, and the other two are vague, personal sensibilities:

1. I found the references in the past year to Richard Rorty’s “prescience” regarding something like the Trump presidency to be, well, too neat. My #USIH colleague Andrew Seal laid out reasons for my skepticism in this piece (and another before it).

2. I often find fans of Rorty—like all fans—to be too centered on, and deferential to, Rorty. I think this stems from his near single-handed revival of pragmatism as a reaction to poststructural modes of thought (i.e. a fetishism for Foucault, Derrida, and other strong critics of the Enlightenment project). They are also fans of his style and persona–captured somewhat in this appreciation.

3. There’s a “white maleness” to the Rorty fan club that I haven’t yet put my finger on. Why is it that I don’t often find references to Rorty among female thinkers and people of color?

These prongs do not diminish my admiration for Rorty’s pragmatism and willingness to poke the eyes of analytic philosophers. The first was a necessary revival, and the second a necessary action in light of their pride, and their dismissal of other modes of thinking as inadequate. – TL

After Virtue: A Humorous Aside

Unexpected find in Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue: His high esteem for the work of Jane Austen.

She is, to him, a synthesis of the greatest thinkers. MacIntyre agrees with a scholarly assessment of Austen, from David Daiches, as her writings as displaying “Marxis[m] before Marx” (p. 239). Who knew that so much socialism had been absorbed by the world of Austen fans? Also, in an ultimate compliment within the framework of After Virtue, MacIntyre finds her philosophical view of happiness to be fully Aristotelian (via Shaftesbury, says Gilbert Ryle) (p. 240). Finally, in agreement with C.S. Lewis, MacIntyre finds in Austen a near perfect combination of Christianity and Aristotle (p. 240).

No wonder PBS loves Austen: she unites Jacobins, Evangelicals, classical republicans, and Lifetime TV fans. The solution of all the world’s problems lies, clearly, in a greater consumption and absorption of the work of Jane Austen. – TL

Controversial Thought for the Day

Controversial thought for today: The lack of an elected school board is a bigger problem for Chicago than its murders.

Our murder rate in 2016 was 27.9 per 100,000—less than St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, Cleveland, Newark, and Memphis.

Murder is terrible, everywhere and always. School boards, however, help determine how many nurses, social workers, and special education staff are in schools. Read more…