Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Quick Updates on Various Reading

Listening to Tyler Cowen's Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World (2009), and after hearing about

Autism in a new light, the joys and possibilities of modern communications technologies (primarily via the Internet, but by texting, etc), he's now begun speaking about Buddhism as a counter-weight to the constant mental buzz in which we live. I'm just starting this, so I'm very interested. Updates to come.

I'm continuing to read Susan Neiman's Evil in Modern Thought. Her presentations of Rousseau and Kant have been quite enlightening (pun intended)—especially of Kant, whom as more of a pure philosopher than political thinker, I'm not as well acquainted with (although his reputation precedes him). She shows Kant to be someone who sees a radical, almost tragic disconnect between the world as nature and human reason. I might also note that she attributes to Kant the idea that purpose is the attribute of human reason and not is found in Nature standing alone. I just started into Hegel this morning, but she gives promise of making good sense of him as well (no easy task by most accounts).

I've started A.P.J. Taylor's The Origins of the Second World War (1961). Taylor is an excellent writer with some keen insights. So far, just some general observations of what the Versailles negotiations hoped to accomplish—and what it did or did not contribute to the origins of the Second World War.

Garry Wills on the Entangled Giant

Garry Wills just published a piece in the NY Review of Books, "Entangled Giant", on how the Obama Administration continues some of the policies and attitudes of the Bush Administration. How discouraging! How frightening! Wills argues that since the Second World War that we have been in a perpetual state of war that has eroded the Constitution (that quaint old document),that has seen the growing ascendency of the executive branch, and that begins to buy into ideas like the theory of the unitary executive. Wills sees the Obama Administration surrendering to the inertia of past practices, the inertia of a government so big and powerful that no one can completely control it. I fear that Wills may be correct, all of my hopes for Obama notwithstanding. The only way to prevent a further slide will come from those willing to speak up in opposition. I'm not talking about becoming a pacifist or sit down strikes, but making principled arguments to overcome this terrible inertia. For those who may not have a sense of what I'm writing about, read Jane Mayer's The Dark Side about the abuses of the Bush Administration. The book made me both ashamed (of what my country did) and frightened (for what it might do, even to its own citizens). Tyranny can become real, and I'm not a right-wing nut—far from it!