The Nick Lezard controversy... new developments
7 minutes ago
So after the manner of boring analytic philosophers the world over, I propose that we disambiguate the term, separating it into propositionalism1 and propositionalism2. I say that propositionalism1 is naive and foolish while propositionalism2 is sensible and importantly right. Here we go:
Propositionalism1 includes, but may not be limited to, the following theses:
1. All groups of people the world over, regardless of ethnicity or cultural background, are equally likely (or approximately equally likely) to produce good naturalized American citizens.
2. All that is necessary to turn people into good naturalized American citizens is to teach them certain propositions about the nature of politics, freedom, and the like, which they will eagerly embrace as soon as they understand them.
3. It would be wrong to discriminate in any way in immigration policies on the basis of ethnic or cultural background.
4. The success of the American form of government can readily be repeated in other countries with vastly different cultural backgrounds from America's.
Propositionalism2 includes, but may not be limited to, the following theses.
1. America has become great in no small measure because of the nature of the form of government put together by America's founders, who were right in their propositional ideas concerning the wisdom of the details of their system--e.g., checks and balances, separation of powers, freedom of religion, and the limitation of federal powers to those enumerated.
2. There is another set of important ideas presupposed by the American form of government which are not, unfortunately, exemplified in all other countries of the world and are centrally important to America's greatness. These include the evil of government corruption, the equality of persons under the law, the value of honesty and hard work, and the importance of the rule of law.
3. An understanding and love of the ideas in #1 and #2 is a crucial part of being a good American citizen.
4. It is not only theoretically possible but also a live, practical possibility that some people not born in America will develop this understanding.
5. If people can come to embrace these ideas, there is a good chance that they will make good naturalized American citizens. In fact, Americans born in America from generations of American citizens who scorn these ideas may be worse and less loyal citizens than those naturalized who have a deep understanding and love for these ideas. Those who have no concept of these ideas have suffered from a sad gap in their American civics education which should be remedied if and when at all possible.
6. Being of non-Caucasian lineage is not by itself sufficient to make it so highly unlikely that one will embrace these ideas and become a good citizen that all persons of non-Caucasian lineage should be debarred from coming to the United States and attempting to become citizens. While race and ethnicity are closely bound up together and can be important cultural markers, race by itself is not everything and does not automatically designate cultural fitness or unfitness for presence in the United States and future good citizenship.
7. Loving one's soil and kindred is not enough to make one a good American, per se, as opposed to a patriotic citizen of some country (any country) or other.
Aristotle Meets Confucius
Asian universities, by contrast, have traditionally stressed specialized, career-focused training. But the idea of a liberal-arts education, with an emphasis on critical inquiry, has begun to gain traction across the Asian continent, and Mr. Levin said he hoped the Yale-NUS collaboration could prove to be a model for the region.
That would be in keeping with Yale's history as a leader in the development of American liberal-arts education in the early 19th century, Mr. Levin said. This new breed of liberal education will marry Eastern and Western intellectual traditions and cultural perspectives. For example, Mr. Levin envisions a course comparing the works of Aristotle and Confucius, who lived less than two centuries apart.
Returning to Yale's roots as a liberal-arts innovator was "irresistible," Mr. Levin said, adding that Yale had passed on other offers of international partnerships.
According to Robert Axelrod’s Theory of Cooperation, most people can be expected to play life’s little games by the rules, so long as they count on interacting in the future with the same people. But, if you are leaving town—or have even thought about leaving town—the incentives to cheat rise quickly. You can bounce a check, defraud a partner, abandon a wife and escape at least the social consequences by skipping off to greater Los Angeles.
Jerks are not tolerated in small-scale societies: they are talked about or driven into exile or sent to Coventry. But imagine if you constructed a city of 10 million people, most of them from out of town, who spend a good part of each day in the company of total strangers they will never see again. This city would not operate according to a single moral code, because it would include large numbers of Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Muslims, atheists and skeptics. There might be some common agreement against murder and theft but not on such large social issues as marriage, divorce, and abortion, much less on public drunkenness, proper behavior in public places, and the tone and volume of conversations in a restaurant.
The BBC won’t rest until we’re all talking filth
In the superb recent remake of True Grit, I don’t think there was a single four-letter word.
Yet it was a perfectly credible portrayal of the lives of fierce and often violent men in a cruel, half-civilised time.
In fact, half the pleasure of the film was the almost biblical English, spoken naturally by everyone – slower, clearer and a hundred times more powerful than the slurred, jerky newspeak of our day.
But don’t expect the BBC, that propaganda organisation for avant-garde muck, to learn any lessons from that.
Fresh from ruining Winifred Holtby’s thoughtful classic South Riding on TV, the Corporation now plans to insert four-letter words into a dramatisation of Wuthering Heights on Radio 3.
Partly this is attention-seeking, and I know they are hoping for condemnation from people such as me. But that is because they are immoral and cheap.
Many people still loathe swearing and are made unhappy by it. For instance,
a grandparent trying to listen to this classic with a grandchild could not do so without great embarrassment.
The BBC knows this, thanks to the many complaints it gets about on-air swearing. It still does it because it is biased against the older Britain where swearing was done only under strict rules.
Its executives and journalists use four-letter words in front of their own children, and think it fine to use them in front of yours, too. They think you’re backward and repressed for not doing it yourself.
The same impulse lay behind the needless four-letter scene in that overrated film The King’s Speech. Fashionable liberals despise restraint and take special delight in debauching innocent and kindly things.
It is quite important that this dramatisation fails and is seen to fail, and that it receives a large number of complaints when it is aired. If they can get away with Wuthering ****ing Heights, it won’t be long before we have David ****ing Copperfield, Vanity ****ing Fair, Romeo And ****ing Juliet, Paradise ****ing Lost, Gray’s ****ing Elegy written in a ****ing Country Churchyard, Tennyson’s In ****ing Memoriam, Brave New ****ing World and, before you know where you are, Alice In ****ing Wonderland, Lord Of The ****ing Rings and (of course) Harry Potter And The ****ing Goblet Of Fire.
For goodness sake, we already have Martin Amis if you want this sort of stuff.