TCS Daily

Autumn of the Humanities

By Uriah Kriegel - March 8, 2006 12:00 AM

We have recently witnessed something of a debate on the "science gap" between American universities and the rest of the world. We did not witness, however, any debate on the state of humanities in American universities. This is not because "all is well" in the world of the humanities. On the contrary, they are in a much sorrier state than anything imaginable in the sciences. It is just that the humanities have been satisfied with the status quo, and their decline has remained opaque to themselves.

Over the past couple of decades, the humanities have been taken over by a very distinctive trend. One aspect of this trend is the proliferation of mini- and cross-disciplines, such as African-American Studies, Women Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, and media studies. These disciplines have been founded on the premise that some aspects of our understanding of the world have been filtered through the mainstream of society and history, thus missing out the perspective of traditionally marginalized groups: blacks, women, gays, etc.

The premise is correct, and in principle could have led to a greater and better understanding of phenomena traditionally perceived solely through mainstream lenses. But in practice research in these disciplines has been conducted by and large by angry people bent on exposing the manifold fashions by which the mainstream has oppressed the margins: in essence, how heterosexual white men have oppressed and delegitimized all other perspectives. That is, these disciplines have become platforms for people who are fundamentally interested more in changing the world than understanding it. To be sure, changing the world is as worthy a cause as any. But it is not a cause that necessarily coincides with the advancement of knowledge.

Another facet of the same trend is the changing complexion of research within the traditional disciplines, such as history, literary criticism, political science, and the like. A typical study coming out of a talented young historian nowadays would make an impressive case for the proposition that, say, women were mistreated under the Ottoman Empire. Archives the world over would be carefully and competently scrutinized, the existing literature would be surveyed intelligently and diligently, and the opinions of established experts would be consulted extensively and skillfully. Only one problem: of course women were mistreated under the Ottoman Empire — everybody knows that — and you don't need a 800-page volume to get it. Commonsense and elementary knowledge of human history would suffice to make that deduction. Again, the fixation with highlighting historical oppression comes at the expense of actually gaining new knowledge.

The trend was set by a cluster of ideas emanating mainly out of the French philosophers Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. These philosophers' work is often subtle and insightful (more so in Foucault's case), but that of their herds of followers rarely is, and can be summarized by two complementary principles: look for the power structure, and do noct indulge in fantasies of "objective truth." You want to understand why astronomers refer to certain phenomena as "black holes"? Look to the astronomers' bosses' skin color and forsake any notion that this may somehow have to do with the intrinsic properties of the phenomena in question. The two "principles" have thus spawned an entire generation of studies that amount to little more than nonsense. Worse, they have propelled a fundamental change in attitude toward nature and the spirit of research among our academics, supplanting the basic wonder at the world that animated previous generations of scholars with a ubiquitous and deep-seated cynicism. If everything is power and nothing is truth, such a change in attitude was inevitable.

Our universities have a double function, involving not only research, but also teaching. The correlate of the above trends on the teaching side of academic function has been the transformation of our universities from institutions of education to institutions of certification. Few students in a regular humanities class are motivated by curiosity and the desire to learn and understand. It's hard to blame them: they lack role models who do. In the absence of such motivation, the only rationalization they can make of their need to sit in classrooms for four years is the prize at the end of the road: the practical dividends of holding a BA, preferably from a top university.

Lawrence Summers, Harvard's outgoing president, understood all that. He understood that the advancement of knowledge across the humanities has been systematically sacrificed on the altar of what is essentially a political agenda, as have been the traditional incentives of wonder at the world, fascination with its inner working, and the determination to understand them all. His first display of "insensitivity" at Harvard was his confrontation with Cornell West — a brilliant man producing worthless work — over the question of just what West has contributed to our knowledge and understanding in the past decade. That confrontation sent shockwaves throughout the humanities. A threat has presented itself to the status quo, in which a simple formula guarantees a lifetime of comfort within the walls of academia, namely: find an instance of oppression the details of which have yet to be thoroughly canvassed and documented — then canvass and document them thoroughly. From that moment, Summers was doomed. There are simply too many interests at play, and too many interested parties, for a single man to overhaul the state of the humanities in American academe.

What can be done about this state of affairs? There is no easy answer... and quite possibly no answer at all. As long as upper middle class parents are happy to fork over forty thousand dollars for a year of oppression studies at Harvard, the status quo will go unperturbed. Read: as long as consumers collude with providers, what they consume will be certification, not education.

Uriah Kriegel teaches philosophy at the Universities of Arizona and Sydney.



Why Harvard
Uriah Kriegel makes some excellent points. Where I believe this line of argument must head is toward the question of what why some colleges are respected, while others are ignored. Harvard and some of the other major schools have a patina of age and respectability about them, and regardless of what they teach, they are still likely to be respected years from now.

Secondly, because some of these schools teach intellectual blather, that blather becomes, by virtue of the schools where it is presented fashionable, or credible. There is no examination of the underlying premises, or other critical study of what the professors are saying to the people they are supposed to be teaching how to think, rather than what to think.

Until the vast majority of scholars and people in general decide not to trust someone just because they have a high sounding degree, but look at what they have to say, and suddenly discover that it is devoid of scholarly merit, we will have a difficult time dealing with this problem.

who's dumber?
So, we have a paradox. Humanities professors can parrot the status quo, or they can question it. In the long run, you only understand something by questioning it. Ridiculing odd sounding suggestions is a sure way to make sure nothing interesting ever happens.

For example, ****, Jane, and Sally are driving down the freeway. **** observes Jane going 10 mph faster than he. Jane observes Sally going 10 mph faster than she. Does that mean that **** sees Sally as going 20 mph faster than he? The first person to question this in modern times seems to be Albert Einstein, and he got plenty of ridicule for it. Later, as more and more scientists accepted Einstein's "theory", the whole profession was derided as "out of touch".

The Einstein story has a happy ending. Even tcmdaily readers like relativity because nuclear power would be impossible without it. The Foucoult story also has a happy ending of sorts: people are starting to figure out that, like Freud, he was just a persuasive fiction writer.

The author seems unclear on the concept of history
the interpretation of the hypothetical history is a gross cartoon. I mean this:

> Only one problem: of course women were mistreated under the Ottoman Empire — everybody knows that — and you don't need a 800-page volume to get it.

How about this comparison:

>Only one problem: of course the North won the civil war — everybody knows that — and you don't need a 800-page volume to get it

insert any historical subject and you can make the same argument.

Just to further beat a really dead horse, you wouldn't get that one line "of course" message from a good history of, say the status of women under the Sultans. What you get is a complex web of indiividual stories, institutional development, anecdotes, statistics and much more building up a picture that continues down to the present, enabling you to understand part of what's going on in the former empire today more clearly. You may not want or need this much information, but you're not the judge.

Monetary Influence
All you have to do is get rid of governments grants and the Dept. of Education in order to turn universities back to the corrections of the market place.

think you're missing a few elements
There's an amazing amount of ignorance in the preceding post.

1. the "government grants" are overwhelmingly in basis science and engineering and are a major element in America's technological edge. Maybe you don't think we need to have such an edge. Or maybe you think Earthquake engineering or quantum physics are too leftist and should be replace by conservative phyiscs and religious engineering.

2. private universities - which include Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the other usual suspects -- are in the marketplace, receiving tuition and endowment income. They also receive large donations from alumni and others.

3. public universities have responded to cutbacks in government funding (for fiscal,not political reasons) by becoming more like private universities.

4. The Department of Education is almost entirely aimed at k-12 ed.

Free Market Education
The beauty of a free market education is that students and parents can choose from hundreds of insitutions of all varieties, from Harvard to Liberty Univeristy -- a fundamentalist Baptist university founded by Jerry Falwell.

Of course Righties don't teach humanities.
Or perhaps right-wingers view the merit of art based on how much money it brings in and are not qualified to teach humanities. If you have derision for Pollack, how are you going to teach it? If you believe the only value in the world is disposible income, why would we let you teach kids about art?

Questioning authority
It is possible to question authority without assuming that all authority is and must be evil.

This is the trap that most liberals fall into. They assume that anyone in authority, who doesn't agree with them, is evil, and must be destroyed.

So eric,
Are you proposing an 800 page study to determine who won the Civil War?

If not, then your analogy is faulty.

WHat We're Doing
I'm a humanities scholar. I have a PhD in the Humanities from UT-Dallas. It is an interdisciplinary degreee, covering aesthetics, literature, and the history of ideas. My dissertation was "Evolutionary Aesthetics." My MA is in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, and my BS is in recombinant gene technology with minors in chemistry and English from Western Ky University, where I also did two years of MS work in molecular biology before getting bored and dropping out. At UT-Dallas, I have studied under Frederick Turner and ALexander Argyros, who have moved beyondboth the Modern Era and postmodernism, into more complex considerations of art and culture. Of course, these more complex considerations could not have occured without postmodernism having occured first. But postmodernism is a bridge -- it is not the end of thinking.

My most recent publication is an essay on interdisciplinarity vs. multidisciplinarity, wherein I expose some of the shortcomings of postmodern multidisciplinarity, and promote a more complex interdisciplinarity. I have recently had accepted an essay applying game theory to the styudy of literature, and I have just finished an essay analyzing an Aeschylean tragedy using the Westermarck effect, which then deals with issues of sexual ethics and the structure of tragedy in its ancient Greek context within the Great Dionysia. I am also working on a work on metaphysics I'm titling "Diaphysics," wherein I tie together various contempoary theories into a highly complex world view. I start with an ontology of information, and from information theory, tie together evolutionary theory, game theory, chaos theory and fractal geometry, emergence theory, complexity theory, power laws, J.T. Fraser's theory of time, and Claire Graves' spiral dynamics theory of psychosocial emergent complexity. I have also recently discovered bios theory, which complements all these theories, and develops emergence especially in exciting ways, and which has confirmed much of what I had already been developing through these conjunctions.

In other words, there are humanities scholars out there bucking the postmodern trend, developing more complex world views. We are simply working away, slowing getting things published. And as we do, we will change the way the world of the humanities works, we will make it relevant once again, and we will change the way people see the world. And just as the Modern Era thinkers won out over the Medieval era thinkers, and the postmodern thinkers have won out over the Modern Era thinkers, those of us thinking at the new level of complexity will win out over the postmoderns. We'll do it over time, one essay or article at a time.

No I am not
And you asking indicates that you don't understand either history or analogy.

The common wisdom
The common wisdom, as frequently as not, turns out to be wrong. Not knowing, I just looked up the status of women during the Ottoman Period. By our standards they were neither poorly treated nor well treated. They were treated differently, under a very different code than our own.

Upper class women enjoyed a great deal of power and influence while remaining well insulated from the outside world. They kept the hearth. Here are a couple of fascinating articles:

Isn't it fortunate people don't just automatically believe every word they read at TCS! How misdirected they would be if they did!

Actually, the example was better than some of the other gibbering in the article
The fictitious analysis of astronomers power relations and sociology hit botton on that score.

and that's what history does when it's good
it provides a detailed picture -- "millions of colors," in a computer monitor analogy -- about conditions and change. It doesn't just turn out one-sentence summary verdicts.

My conservative political science professor is no leftie, check him out
I am taking a college political science class and my professor is very conservative. He definitely doesn't go for any leftie stuff like actually discussing the ideas of politics.

He talks, you listen.

If you disagree with him you are obviously uninformed, period.

Don't read commentary on what politicians say, just listen to them directly. No questions at all about anything, thank you, especially don't question any conservatives because obviously they're already informed and if you don't believe them without questioning then you're not informed.

One of my favorite lectures of his was about the media and the concept of fair and balanced reporting. He started yelling about how life isn't fair so don't expect it to be so. He proceeded to bring out an article about a woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer(one of his favorite subjects to drag into a lecture), had her breasts removed, and then discovered she was healthy. The lab had made a mistake. He then yells 'TELL HER ABOUT FAIR!'.

You should pay less attention to the news, it's too negative for you.

It's obvious that lobbyists have to be honest and open or they would be out of work.

Our elections should be 'winning party take all, Senate, House, and White House' so we don't have the problem like we have now where the Republican party is constantly restrained by the Democrats, causing gridlock.

No left wing crap in this class that's for sure. And if this is the quality we get in colleges today then it is indeed 'autumn for the humanities'.

Oh, Please, NO!
"Our elections should be 'winning party take all, Senate, House, and White House' so we don't have the problem like we have now where the Republican party is constantly restrained by the Democrats, causing gridlock."

When President Johnson was in office, the Democrats held the Congress as well. It was a disaster. Not only Vietnam, but the infinitely more expensive "Great Society"; Johnson's welfare program alone cost $6.6 trillion, and the only observable result was the destruction of the black family. Even Clinton was smart enough to recognize the folly, but then Old Bill was an expert on folly.

The electorate should make sure that the political interests are well balanced, so that they can fight each other and let the rest of us go about our business. Political gridlock is exactly what we want and need.

Advocate for the Devil
"If you believe the only value in the world is disposible income, why would we let you teach kids about art?"

Actually I think there is a need for a course in corporate art. And if it isn't already being offered I suspect it will be at some point.

Financial centers like NYC, DC and LA are huge markets for acceptably "hip", edgy art that law firms, brokerages and other places that accumulate way too much money can hang on the (ecru, of course) suede walls of their waiting rooms and conference rooms-- to show their clients how refined their tastes are. There are a number of galleries that cater to this taste, offering in-house consultants to educate the buyers for these houses in selecting a "look" that will define the taste of their particular firm.

Artists get very rich belonging to the stables of such galleries. Universities thrive by catering to the tastes of young students who want to select a career where they'll be making a ton of money. It's a natural fit. It's art by the yard.

Many of your colleges and universities now use the term "Critical Studies" instead of "Humanities". Critical studies incorporate modernism, post-modernism, deconstruction, and ethnic/ class/ gender/ ***** studies, all of which were mentioned in the article.

The article does not specifically mention Marxist studies, but many of the professorial bios in our faculty directories include specialties in Marxist studies. Ethnic/ class/ gender/ ***** studies are inherently Marxian, but modernism is not necessarily right or left.

Marx took a hit in 1991, but leftists soldier on. In fact, Marx took many hits previous to the fall of the Soviet Union. Antonio Gramsci was a founding member of the Italian communist party, and way back in the 1920s, Gramsci recognized that the economic-based theory of Marx was inadequate and self-destructive, as applied in the Soviet Union, where it resulted in the enslavement and death of millions in the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Fully embracing Marx's ideals of changes to class structure and morality, but wary of Marx's claims about the economic nature of man (given the early failures of Marxism-Leninism), Gramsci created a new theory of "Cultural Communism". Marxist ideals were to be realized by taking over social institutions, primarily schools, media, and churches, what Gramsci termed cultural "hegemony" over these institutions. In fact, while Gramsci is not well known to the general populace, leftist professors, the leftist media, and the leftist National Council of Churches are widely noted and receive frequent comments, to the consternation of Conservatives.

All of which would have played out in the political environment following the crash of the Soviet Union, except for the rise of militant Islam. Now the cultural hegemons of the antique media, the Marxist professors, and the NSC are conflicted; are the politically incorrect Conservatives a bigger threat, or are the murderous thugs that brought you 09/11 a bigger threat to Gramscian goals?

No contest: Conservatives are the biggest threat. If the Democrats could recapture the government, they could proceed with their socialist revolution, and all would be well. The USA could then deal with the Muslims the way Clinton dealt with Kosovo; from on high, at little cost, without scruple or political correctness.

But that is not important. Defeating the Conservatives is the important thing to Democrats. And the end result of the Democrat/ socialist/ Gramscian campaign is as uncertain as the fate of the Kulaks in Ukrania.

Humanities study is declining in whole world
Humanities study is orphen in today`s world, today whole world is runing behind marketing, making money, mataphyscal faculties are closing all over world in leading unversities. literture and other social sciences are neglating by everybody. this is real tragedy. we must keep balances in business,sciences and humanities study otherwise we will loss great deal mankind`s future

***** studies
I'm interested in the ***** studies. Where can I find some of those?

Incidentally, what I've been noticing around the world is that many countries that had a legacy of socialist central planning now don't know how to get rid of it. It's not that the philosophy still holds any allure.

Food and fuel subsidies, a centrally planned economy and an employment picture topheavy with worthless government factories have induced permanent economic torpor in these places. Most all their governments are trying to get out and try something that works.

Trouble is, they don't know how. If they just dump the existing system and sign on to some free trade agreement as America's partner they precipitate an instant unemployment crisis. People start going hungry and the government gets overthrown. This has in fact happened so many times in the past thirty years that every boondock dictator is well aware it's a fatal mistake.

Want to do something about it? Figure out a way to get from there to here with minimal pain and you can get hired by the World Bank as a million dollar economic consultant. So far many of the brightest guys in the world have been working on this problem-- as yet with little success.

Can't Get There From Here...
Really? I've never known any country to try this. The first thing all countries need to do is to set up property ownership throughout the country. In most countries, the government owns all the land (even in the U.S., the federal government owns a lot of it -- and with property taxes, government de facto owns all the land. Just see what happens if you don't pay your rent, er, property taxes). What those governments should do is homestead the land and let people already there own the land they live on and work. Having done that, such land should then be preotected by the legal system -- one with a legitimate court system and strong contract laws. All this will cause no pain at all. Unfortunately, the kind of people working for the UN and WOrld Bank are not pro-property rights. Russian thought free markets were anarchy. Free markets require a set of laws that protect property from the theft of others, including government. It requires contract laws, so that you know if you and someone agree to something, you both have to live up to that agreement. These are the cornerstones of the free market -- and are the very two things nobody wants to even try.

"I'm interested in the ***** studies. Where can I find some of those?"

Whatever turns you on.

Richard Pryor became rich and famous and dead for broadcasting the N word all over creation. I would get in trouble for something like that.

Academic syllabi commonly list the Q word as an area of study, but TCS chooses just to censor my use of the term.

Whatever turns them on.

"Trouble is, they don't know how. If they just dump the existing system and sign on to some free trade agreement as America's partner they precipitate an instant unemployment crisis. People start going hungry and the government gets overthrown. This has in fact happened so many times in the past thirty years that every boondock dictator is well aware it's a fatal mistake."

The USA was in a similar circumstance toward the end of the Carter Catastrophe. Interest rates and inflation were sky high, and the American economy had gone through more than a decade of virtually no growth, dating back to Johnson's Vietnam War and simultaneous Great Society programs. Carter and some of his economists declared that the USA was in terminal decline and there was nothing for it.

Reagan knew better, and lowered taxes and passed economic reforms that produced the record growth and wealth of the last twenty years, interrupted briefly by Clinton's tax increases and the Bubba Bubble. Reagan's reforms did briefly raise interest rates, the deficit, and unemployment. But higher interest rates burned inflation out of the economy, and tax cuts and deficits produced the capital that created wealth-building growth and employment.

This is quite the opposite of socialist and Democratic Party wealth-destroying taxes and confiscations.

It takes much self-discipline to make a free economy work, and we are not completely there as yet. But there is a workable response to any economic state or condition, and socialism is not it, as has been proven repeatedly, in every situation in which it has ever been tried.

Capitalist land reform
There are not very many third world countries where the state owns all the land. Nearly every one retains traditional ownership patterns. In order to award land ownership to those who farm it, the state has to seize it from the owner-landlord and deed out the title to the renter-peon. This kind of thing is considered socialism of the worst order, and I'm a little surprised to see you endorsing it.

Here's a good overview of the general subject of land reform:

But I think you're probably thinking of something like the Peruvian experiment, where the government gives legal title to informal owners whose land has been uncontested for generations. This allows them to obtain mortgages and use the loans for startup money. Yes, that's a step in the right direction.

I think we would all agree that some egregious examples like the Nigerian legal system of ownership (at the pleasure of the state governor) are just setups for corruption. This is a classic example of a state that won't work as defined under law-- but persists because so many people are getting rich from it.

I would strongly agree that the best medicine for most chronically ailing nations would be to develop a strong tradition of respect for the law. Without it they are ruled by men-- and not benevolent ones.

Anything else you're aware of and could expand on would be of interest.

De facto Land Ownership
I am talking about de facto land ownership -- one where the government can seize the land from land owners to "give" as it pleases. I'm as against land welfare as for all other forms, including subsidies. WHat all these governments need is a stable constitution that creates separations and hierarchies of power. In other words, we need to stop promoting democracy and promote rather constitutional republics.

The wealth of nations
You make it sound so simple. And I'll admit, for Reagan, in America, it was. But for third world countries somehow it just doesn't work out that way.

No nation on earth could have followed the World Bank prescriptions for prosperity more abjectly than Honduras. This place is wide open for foreign investment, and doesn't give a rat's south end for the environment, the labor force or anything else that might put a dent in the bottom line. So tell me, how is life in Honduras?

In fact much of the South American continent is now rethinking the free market wisdom that's kept them down for so many years. Famous basket cases like Argentina, who no one thought would ever get better, are now propering like crazy-- by declaring their independence and moving out from under the constrictions that have been imposed on them for so many years.

In fact their economy is now growing at a rate of 8.2%. I'm no economist, but I hear that's considered pretty good. The US, for instance, is only at 3.5%. (I hasten to say that our inflation rate is still lower than Argentina's.)

So in fact there are many emerging economies that are doing well by taking a path other than the one you describe. May I mention China? (9.2%, sort of). How about Venezuela? (8.4%). These are doing much better than our protege Colombia (4.1%).

Look up as many as you like in the CIA factbook. Their numbers are pretty good, and will tell the story.

Oh, THAT kind of land ownership
That's the system we have in the US. Through the magic of eminent domain, your castle can be taken down tomorrow so Costco can put up a new outlet on the same spot. It's all very legal.

I'll tell you a story. I was over in Estonia during the Gorby years, when everything was changing. I told my driver how nice I thought their suburbs looked. He said "You just don't know. In our system we can't own the land. We just get a lease on it, for 99 years. The government can take it back any time it wants. Things are much better in America."

So I told him "Your system is just like our system. Your govt tells you you're leasing the land and paying them rent, while my govt tells me I own the place and I'm paying them property taxes. But in either location if they think they have some better use for it they can welch on the deal and get it back."

So how would you reform the American system?

Why Harvard? A better life in a controlled job.
Many families believe in the power of a degree from an elite school to promote the careers of their children. That power is real. But it comes at a price. Toe the line or you are out. So students go along to get along. And they do the same on the job at corporations or government, the two major contributors to universities. Elite schools want to be sure you are very hungry for that degree, so that your obedience is assured.
That a degree from an elite university is necessary to get ahead is of course nonsense, as many careers illustrate. But insecure families and students will not take that chance. So much for the power of the highest IQs to display character of arrive at sound decisions.
It perfectly explains rule by idiot savants at our elite universities, as president Summers resignation from Harvard documents. Feminist professors objected to his recognition of the fact that male and females differ in interests and ability (and now risk taking) and that this may explain the scarcity of females in science and mathematics, suggesting study to see what can be done about it.
Summers caved in by apologizing. He had to go along to have a future. And as in the Stalin and Mao show trials, he was then summarily executed. Discipline must be enforced, you see, even at the top. Thus the Kennedy assassinations?
Many professors at elite universities do a great job, but within the bounds of PC. PC as Harvard has shown is alive and well and rules supreme and don’t you forget it.

Abolish Property Taxes
The first thing I would do is abolish property taxes. That would make it so that property could not be taken from you just because you failed to pay the government's rent. FOr those worried about school funding, how about a 1% local sales tax?

The second thing I would do is make it explicit that immanent domain means that it can be used only for direct government purposes: roads, jails, courthouses, etc. Of course, the government should be able to just buy land for most of those things, though obviously roads could be a problem. When I was in Greece last summer, one of the locals told me (as we were talking about the unconstitutional SUpreme Court decision last summer) that while Greece has immanent domain, the government had to pay 3 times the market price for all land it seized. Seems to me that would give them a bit of an incentive to get people to sell. And it would still allow the government to get land it actually needed for certain government projects.

And Costco would simply have to buy land where it could, and compete with people in the region (vs. getting the goverment to hand over the land of their competitors to them, as has been happening).

One bad idea and one good one
A one percent sales tax won't begin to do it, z. You probably pay a thousand a year or more in property taxes. To pay a thousand in a one percent sales tax you'd have to spend 100K each year in consumer purchases. Do you?

Our setup here in America is expensive to maintain. Maybe the feds can just invent money as it is required, but the states don't have that option. In my state, just to keep the place going, we pay property taxes, income taxes and a seven percent sales tax. Still, the roads are falling apart and we have to consider a huge bond issue to pay for $5-1/2 billion in new school construction, since our population is growing.

I know, I know. They shouldn't build the new schools. But if we don't have schools any more, industry leaves the state and everyone's unemployed. Let 'em all home school, right? After they get home from the office.

Your idea about having to pay three times market price for seized land, on the other hand, is great stuff. Zatavu for governor.

Are you for real?
"Those of us thinking at the new level of complexity will win out over the postmoderns. We'll do it over time, one essay or article at a time."

Not like that, you won’t! Because while you have your head buried under a pile of books, thinking deep esoteric thoughts, and writing papers that nobody will ever read about "evolutionary theory, game theory, chaos theory and fractal geometry, emergence theory, complexity theory, power laws, J.T. Fraser's theory of time, and Claire Graves' spiral dynamics theory of psychosocial emergent complexity", the real conversations of life, the real philosophies of the modern world, will develop in the streets, cafes, and airwaves of the world. While the academic types lock themselves in towers of knowledge (that was quite an impressive tower of theories you built just there, by the way) the intelligent man seeks after something much more valuable than knowledge: Wisdom.

While you sit in a corner and talk to your professor about 'exiting new levels of complexity', there are millions of people out here (preachers, politicians, mothers, laborers, and skilled professionals) talking about real life issues, with both immediate and eternal consequences. Topics like right and wrong, good and evil, sin and salvation, and the very purpose of life. (Which, by the way, is NOT to get as many degrees as possible. In fact, it’s a lot closer to thinking (and acting) simply and clearly than it is to developing evermore complex and "advanced" philosophies.)

Do you really think you are on the verge of discovering some great hidden truth, some shining wisdom that has been hidden through all the ages?

The wisest man human history, Solomon, who spoke long and eloquently about the unsurpassed value of wisdom, also had this to say: "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh." Ecclesiastes 12:12

Karl Marx spent the vast majority of his life shut away in a room reading and writing books. He almost never went out and associated with anyone. Are you really going to tell me that Marx had no influence on the world?

Nietzsche spent mot of his life in the Swiss Alps, reading and writing. He was not a preacher, nor was he directly involved in politics. Are you really going to tell me that Nietzsche had no influence on the world?

For better or worse, in the real world such people have profound influence on the world. Communism, various forms of socialism, welfare statism -- all these are from Marx's ideas. 20th Century geopolitics is a monument of refutation to your claim.

As it turns out, though, I am a little more proactive than either Marx or Nietzsche. I post here, for example. I have a blog for anyone to read at . As a professor, I have students. And I do spend a lot of time sitting up at the Starbucks. I do read and write there, but I also talk to people. And people listen. But I do have to do all the esoteric work in order to have clear ideas to espouse in the first place.

A note on knowledge: while knowledge is developed through scholarship and science, ?It is the philosophers who should be bringing knowledge together. To the extent a person’s work does not bring knowledge together, that person cannot legitimately be called a philosopher. Philosophy is “love of wisdom,” and wisdom unifies knowledge by seeing the world as a whole.

Or consider the following, from my dissertation, on the difference between knowledge and wisdom:

? Knowledge, facts, and truth. I want to make a distinction between facts and truth. In his essay “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense,” Nietzsche discusses the statement that a camel is a mammal, saying that this is a truth of a sort, but one of limited value. These truths of “limited value” are what I would call “facts.” Facts are in the realm of knowledge, and are defined by the language. It is a fact that a camel is a mammal. A mammal is defined as an animal which is warm-blooded, has hair, and feeds milk to its young. Since a camel does/has all of these things, we classify camels as mammals. It fits into this arbitrary conceptual category we created so we can better study, understand, and talk about them. To use another example, let us say I filled my car with gas. One would typically say it is true that I filled my car with gas. I would rather say it is a fact that I filled my car with gas. This use of the word “fact” is supported by its etymology: “fact” comes from the Latin factum, for “done,” the neuter past participle of facere, “to do.” An action of some sort is needed for something to be a fact. That action is our hierarchical categorizing of objects. “All knowledge originates from separation, delimitation, and restriction; there is no absolute knowledge of the whole” (Nietzsche, PT 109). So “all explaining and knowing is nothing but categorizing” (PT 141). With facts, we end up with a plurality of pluralities. To be reductionist or deconstructionist is to be concerned only with the facts. On the other hand, those against knowledge, who believe we cannot know anything, are those who cannot find fulfillment in knowledge alone. But that is no reason to abandon knowledge – any more than the connection of wisdom to religion was sufficient reason, despite the decline of religion in the West, to abandon wisdom. If we abandon knowledge, we will only find ourselves doubly absent – of knowledge and wisdom. Instead, we need a return to wisdom, to replace what is truly missing.
Wisdom and truth. Nietzsche says art “speaks the truth quite generally in the form of lies” (TL 96). Nietzsche is talking about truth as facts. Art does not need facts – it gives us everything as illusion. One can have art that is blatantly non-factual, yet still have wisdom-truth. Works of art and literature act as one of the primary sources of this kind of wisdom-truth. “The term sophos, which means ‘wise (man)’, originally referred to skill in any art, and particularly in the art of poetry” (Charles Kahn, 9). The artist is the wise man. But wisdom may or may not be connected to facts. Gabriel Garcia Marquez does not really believe someone can be so beautiful they can literally contradict the law of gravity and shoot up into the air. With magical realism we have “fact-statements” coming into conflict with “truth-statements.” One way of creating meaning is through repetition. Another way is to create an image so amazing one cannot forget it. This latter approach is the soul of magical realism and of such surrealist painters as Dali and Magritte. How can one forget the scene in One Hundred Years of Solitude where Remedios the Beauty shot into the heavens because was so beautiful? Or when José Arcadio shot himself and

A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta's chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
"Holy Mother of God!" Úrsula shouted. (129-130)

This blood goes places and does things blood should not be able to do, but that does not matter. What matters is the truth uncovered by this scene, and that, because it is so strange, we remember it. Meaning is tied to memory (Memory, in Greek mythology, is the mother of the Muses). We remember things which are repeated (patterned repetition is doubly repetitious, and thus more meaningful), and we remember things that are as amazing as these images – the “shock of the new” the Modernists were so enamored with. It is evolutionarily important to be surprised at, shocked by, and thus remember new things, since new, unknown things could be dangerous – and it is good to remember surprising things so we are not continually surprised at the new thing with each subsequent encounter. We give meaning to things we remember. We see this connection too in the Greek word for truth, aletheia. Lethe is the river of forgetting, the river dead souls must drink from before rebirth. Letheia is thus forgetting. A-letheia is not- or un-forgetting. Thus truth, aletheia, is unforgetting, remembering. Art speaks the truth precisely because it, as Milan Kundera says, uncovers aspects of existence we have forgotten. Great art speaks aletheia what we are continually letheia, even after we have experienced the work of art. Art does this through lies because every uncovering of physis/logos is a covering, since “physis kryptesthai philei” (Heraclitus, K. X), “Nature loves to hide.” This is how we understand, if not on a completely logical, rational level of explanation, what Marquez means about a woman being that beautiful, or a murdered man’s blood returning home. We understand these a-rational truths, a-rational because they are true without being factual. Marquez highlights and makes beautiful the potential separation between truth and fact – a separation which is the soul of religious mythology.
Gyorgy Doczi says wisdom is seeing the w

So you're calling for magical politics?
Words without literal meanings, just meant to convey generalized hopes? Actions taken without regard to probably outcome (who knows?), but just because they grow out of generalized desires?

Well, perhaps more than 1%. Naturally, one would want to study what would make for more equitable income. Here in Texas we only have sales tax and property taxes. No income tax. And the sales tax is only 8%. ANd we don't have a deficit. So maybe you might want to look into what's going on that your state can't pay for everything with such high taxes, when we can do it with much lower taxes here in Texas. Sounds to me like someone is skimming more than a little off the top.

Let's take a look at Dallas county, where I live. Admittedly, this is a large county. I have estimated that the overall income of Dallas county is $37003851556.00 Now, if we assume that only half of that is spent on things that can be taxed using sales taxes, and we have only 1% sales tax, that results in $185,019,257.78 for schools. Admittedly, this is a tad short of the $767,720,000.00 needed to just pay the salaries, but we at least begin to get an idea of what is needed. A 10% local sales tax would get us up to almost $2 billion. To get that thousand would require a sales tax of 10% for $10,000 of spending. If we consider the average income to be a little over $40,000 a year, this could more than make up for it.

Okay, so I undershot a bit on my tax proposal. I'd still rather pay 10% more in sales tax than pay property taxes, just as I'd rather pay the 8% sale tax we pay here in Texas than income tax.

Incidentally, it seems to me that the federal government should be able to get away with eliminating federal income tax and replacing it with, say, a 6% sales tax. The total income for the U.S. in 2000 was 4,429,531,361,394.00 . At 6% sales tax on half of that (to be pessimistic): $132,885,940,841.82 . Now I'm thinking that should be enough to get pretty much anything you want done.

That's only 24% of what you spend. How much of your income goes to taxes now?

Did you read why I posted? And if you did, was it even in context of what I was talking about here?

why you posted?
I assume it was because you were trying to explain your views. You weren't very clear.

However, for free, here's a quote from Claude Shannon that you may want to put into your future ramblings.

"We have knowldege of the past, but we can't control it. We can control the future, but we have no knowledge of it."

Have you read what I posted, what the comment was to what I posted, and my comment to that? It's all about context. When you take things out of context, dont be surprised when you find yourself confused. I made a specific response to the essay, to which someone made a specific response to me, and I made a specific response to his comments. When looked at in their context, you can see that it is not rambling. But you have to read things in context. When you have read all those, then give me some specific feedback about specific places where I was not clear, and I can work on clarifying myself. But please keep it all in context.

I think you're confusing word-count with topicality. rambling collections of quotes aren't on-point.

He accused me of only being concerned with knowledge and not wisdom, so I provided definitions of both. In other words, I was right on topic. Again, have you read it all in context? Do you know what it was all about? I need actual details, or else youre just being a jerk for the sake of being a jerk.

That explains it
You should stay in Texas, Mr Z. It appears to suit your taste. Here in the outside world Texas has a very different appearance. You are at the extreme of low public services, where the po' folks are on their own.

Stay in Dallas, where all your neighbors are rich. If you need to go anywhere, take a plane. The rest of the state is pretty beaten down, and reflects an environment where all services have been curtailed. A drive down to Brownsville or out to Texarkana would not be uplifting.

Don't rely on outside perceptions of Texas. That's not the way things are around here. I've only lived in Dallas 5 years. I was raised in Kentucky and lived in Mississippi for two years. I've visited lots of places in Texas -- my fiancee's family lives in the Rio Grande Valley. My brother's wife lives in west Texas. I don't see much difference in these places than I have seen in Dallas. THere are poor people and people with money, and middle classed people everywhere. My fiancee used to do social work, and you may rest assured that they get all the public services (which are mostly federal anyway) everyone else gets. The difference is, without an income tax, Texas has one of the strongest economies in the U.S. This is also true of the few other states without income taxes -- such as Tennessee and Florida. Texas is no worse than most places, and, as a whole, better off then most. I would not recommend your going to my home state of Kentucky -- a state with extremely high income and sales taxes. It is also still one of the poorest states, even though the state tries everything it canto get every dime the people make. Or should I say, because it does.

Let's take the same data from the place I grew up: Hopkins County KY, and see what happens. THe overall yearly incomes of Hopkins Co. is $394,048,830.00 . Now, let's do the same calculations as before. That would give the county $19,702,441.50 per year. Just to pay the teachers in Hopkins Co.: $7,000,000.00 . Now, if you consider the numbers for Dallas County, Hopkins County actually comes off a bit better, since it would have to pay a lower percentage of its tax income to teachers. So Hopkins Co. KY could have even lower sales taxes -- which would benefit the poor citizens of the county, who make quite a bit less than the people of Dallas.

You've offered a sophomoric great books quote fest
tie it to some issue or shut up

Funny, the part you are complaining about most is from my successfully defended dissertation. Not so much sophomoric as PhDic (okay, I have to admit, I cringed a bit at that one :-) ).

In another thread, you admonish people not to make the thread pointlessly political. ANd yet, here you are, over here, trying to do the exact same thing. It is tied to the issue being discussed in this thread, and in my initial posting to this article. Again, keep things in context.

The person I was responding to suggested that I was all about knowledge, and not at all about wisdom. I responded the way I did to suggest that 1) knowledge and wisdom were perhaps not as he thought, and 2) I was extremely concerned with wisdom. Even more, I am concerned with beauty, which combines, among other things, knowledge and wisdom. There is, in what I posted, an argument. Do back and try to give it a careful reading and see if you can figure out what that argument is. Admittedly, it's tough, being an academic book and all -- but give it a shot. Despite myself, I am convinced more than you are convinced yourself that you actually can understand what it is about and what its relevance is. But giving it a superficial, sophomoric read isn't going to cut it.

Of course, I'm not the first to be misunderstood. I am in exemplary company there.

As for you, I hope your mother would be embarrassed at the way you act and treat others. It is possible to disagree agreeably, you know. That is the only way to arrive at truth, which is what all inquiries should lead to. Argument is not quarrelling, though you seem determined to only quarrel.

The Beginnings of a New Humanities
In the beginning, nothing. But nothing – perfect symmetry – is unstable and tends to break into a unified symmetrical asymmetry of energy-matter space-time. And the energy-matter space-time was without form, and void. The cosmos was born of fire, in a tremendous burst of energy,
creating the energy-matter space-time field. This field was chaotic, and thus repulsive, causing the initial rapid expansion of the cosmos. As space expanded/time flowed, the energy cooled and crystalized out into lower-frequency strings, which crystalized further into quarks, electrons and other forms of particle-waves. The quarks interacted to form neutrons, protons, and other particles, and the laws of physics separated out from the initial single law of physics. There was a variety of frequency within the unity of particle-wave energy. Neutrons, protons, and electrons interacted as the cosmos expanded and cooled further, forming simple systems – atoms. Since energy, matter, space, and time are interconnected, and energy-matter has a wave nature, space too has a wave nature, or gravity waves, which trapped large numbers of atoms, collecting them into high enough densities to bend space further, collecting more atoms into high enough densities
to create stars. Space itself flattened out as it expanded, while remaining curved, giving space both infinity and finiteness – a fractal geometry. It was and is a space of growth in its fractal geometry, and thus it is a space of generativeness, an open system. Atoms spiraled together to create stars, and stars spiraled together in Fibonacci spirals to create galaxies, expressing in smaller scales the fractal geometry of the universe. As stars formed, probabilistic quantum elements exchanged information and thus observed each other into macrophysical objects, or more solid forms. These could more easily interact, because waves only interact to heighten or cancel out wave functions. This generated yet another breaking of symmetry as those elements in close enough proximity to observe each other tended to be in phase. Fusion in the stars created more complex atoms, and supernovae created more complex atoms. New stars formed, creating with them complex systems – solar systems. In some solar systems, and certainly in one, carbon chemistry on rocky planets with liquid water became more complex, and, on this planet at least, became complex systems of carbon chemistry. Several of these systems interacted to create higher-order complex systems – cells. Over a billion years or so, some of these cells too became
more complex, and interacted with their sister cells to create more complex, multi-celled systems – organisms. Some of these organisms created more complex organs, including complex neural systems – brains. And in some organisms, these brains became even more complex systems, which themselves created complex social systems, including culture in a few species of tailless primates – apes. In the branch of apes that gave rise to the bonobos, chimpanzees, and humans, the brain-social-culture system developed technology – tools. Eventually, in the human branch of the great apes, the brain-social-culture-technology system created language and art, which acted as
feedback mechanisms, to speed up the brain-social-culture-technology system. This is the most complex system we have certainty of at the present time. And what new, more complex systems will follow? Who knows? Who could have imaged such complex systems as Shakespeare’s sonnets from knowing only about quantum-physical systems? Like any good story, the universe is retrodictable, but not predictable – only probable trends can be suggested from past trends, and surprises, especially in the details, are almost certain. So the only thing I will say about the future
is that it will resemble the past, in that it will be a more complex system made up of complex systems, in the same way culture is made up, in part, from the complex systems of art and literature, which are created by the complex system of an individual’s human brain, which is made up of the complex systems of neural cells, which are themselves made up of complex chemical systems, which are made up of complex quantum systems – all of which interact in a field of other entities. If we are to understand the universe, artistically or scientifically, we must understand it as a complex fractal system of complex systems – it is complex systems all the way up and down,
regardless of scale. The universe is unified – as a fractal geometry of complex systems – with variety, in the variety of complex systems. With this understanding of the universe as a fractal of complex systems, we see that the universe is beautiful.
Aristotle defines metaphysics as “a likely story.” But how likely is the story I have just told? Recent work in chaos theory, fractal geometry, self-organizing dissipative structures, quantum physics, cosmology, time, evolution, and game theory suggest my story – or one very
similar – is very likely. Christian Fuchs points out that the elements of a system

first enter a chaotic state, in which they repulse each other. Chaos, noise and instability mean a disordered movement of the elements of a complex system. But this repulsion is one that turns into attraction, because the elements interact, there are processes of ordering and selection, i.e. attraction takes place as the emergence of a coherent whole and new quality. Synergies between elements of a physical system are not due to some
higher, eschatological force; they take place and result in emergent order due to the ability of matter to structure itself. Patterns as forms of coherent movement result from information generation in dissipative systems. The emergence of order (patterns) from noise in physical systems is due to the synergetic co-operation, i.e. productive interactions of the system’s components. (TripleC 1(1): 7)

Understanding the universe as a complex self-organizing system shows us how the initial rapid expansion of the universe likely occurred. The theory of self-organizing dissipative structures can help us understand cosmology. My story is likely too because it explains the different levels of reality with one theory, and it explains how those levels are different. It shows how one can get
variety from unity. Francis Hutcheson defines beauty as variety in unity. Since this story shows how one can get a universe with unity and variety, the fact that this story gives us a beautiful universe also makes it a likely story, as any story that gives us universality alone or plurality alone is an unlikely story for the reasons of being incomplete, and therefore not beautiful.
Now that I have established the likelihood of my story, I should perhaps explain the necessity of telling it. Art and literature are complex systems of the same sort, but of a different kind and higher complexity, as the other constituent parts of the universe. Art and literature resemble every other part of the universe, regardless of scale, but at the same time they are
hierarchically more complex than every level below them. So I must first establish the likelihood that the universe is both fractal and hierarchical before I can discuss art and literature as fractal and hierarchical, as dynamic systems. As such, works of art and literature have emergent
properties, which make them more than their constituent parts – which includes the creator(s) of the work(s). But if we are to understand why we need to create works of art and liter

Congratulations on defending your dissertation
But what's the application?

The issue occasioned by the essay was political. It was saying that politics was killing free inquiry.

Thank you for illustrating that someone who believes in non-leftist values can succeed in academia. Otherwise - what's your pont?

The Beginnings of a New Humanities, Ch. 1

The Modern Era split the world asunder. First Descartes split us in two: a body and a soul. And that appeared to be enough of a division for philosophers to elaborate on for centuries, whether they called the split body and soul, the noumenal and the phenomenal, the body and the will, or Being and Becoming. But Nietzsche introduced the West to even more divisions with perspectivism, and postmodernists have taken up this idea, and have divided the world into a plurality of perspectives, all unconnected and unable to communicate. Postmodernism sees the world through multiple perspectives only, rejecting any unity. But this gets only half of Nietzsche’s thought. Perspectivism is a way to get to knowledge, so the drive for a perspectivism-only view is the unlimited knowledge drive Nietzsche criticizes. Nietzsche does not favor taking up perspectivism for perspectivism’s sake. Nor does he find equal value in all perspectives. By considering different perspectives, we can more ably judge how each of these perspectives aids us in our understanding, helping us uncover more about a subject. Different perspectives give us different ways of knowing about a thing, but bringing together as many perspectives on a thing will help us to better understand it. “The sea is the purest and foulest water: for fish drinkable and life – sustaining; for men undrinkable and deadly” (Heraclitus, K. LXI). Art, literature and philosophy are as valid ways of knowing and understanding the world as are the sciences, psychology, economics, history, and sociology. Each provides us with perspectives that together only work to help us understand the world better.
But some contemporary philosophers have abandoned some of these perspectives, saying they are not legitimate ways of knowing. Many postmodern thinkers are anti-science (another misreading of Nietzsche), and the only “legitimate” economic theory for many scholars of literature and philosophy has been Marxism. But science is a legitimate part of philosophy – it was once known as natural philosophy. Why have philosophers abandoned natural philosophy, leaving it to the scientists, whose theories (the Big Bang, quantum, string, relativity, natural selection, sexual selection, etc.) are in fact philosophies – natural philosophies? The only difference – which should be no difference – is that these theories are in constant negotiation with the discoveries being made by scientists using the methods of science. Philosophers could make considerable contributions to science through theoretical work that takes into consideration both the findings of science and the wisdom of the arts and philosophy. It is the philosophers who should be bringing knowledge together. To the extent a person’s work does not bring knowledge together, that person cannot legitimately be called a philosopher. Philosophy is “love of wisdom,” and wisdom unifies knowledge by seeing the world as a whole. If one simply studies and writes about the works of other philosophers, that person is a scholar of philosophy, not a philosopher. Philosophers cannot abandon any perspective on the world. Nor can artists. Artists and philosophers must consider as many perspectives as possible, if they are going to make truly great works of lasting quality. In the realm of the novel, this is the novelist using Bakhtin’s dialogics. Consider the following poem:

Perspectives on the Setting Sun


The blue retreats into the dark –
The planet’s orbit makes the sun
Appear to disappear beyond
The edge of the earth until one
Last sliver slips from its blue bond
To the sky, the moon its one mark.


The lovers sit beside the lake
And watch the sun slip behind trees
That border the distant shore.
The colors dazzle them and please
Them into love – they each adore
The other – their hearts rise, awake.


The sun sets on the horizon,
The extra atmosphere the light
Must shine through now stretches and spreads
The light from white to shades of bright
Rose, spreading the sky in light reds,
Clouds in purples by the dozen.


The sunset on our love today.
You left me before you left me,
I know you never had your heart
With mine. Why did you want to flee
From all I wanted to impart
To you? Why can’t we find a way?


The scattered sunlight shines too bright –
The setting sun is all I see
Through the windshield of my old car.
I clipped the runner at the knee –
Her blood was redder than the star
That killed her with my blinded sight.


I fear the coming setting sun,
The darkness that it will herald
In, my darkest night, a new moon
That, on the other side, has pulled
Down my tides to their lowest tune –
The moon and sun eclipsed, as one.


How do you skip from orange to blue?
The atmosphere’s not like a cloud –
The spectrum’s missing the middle.
An absent center’s been allowed
To make this evening a riddle
And a mirror of all that’s true.


Blessèd Ra once rose high above
The Nile flowing brown and green
Past the sphinx and the pyramids.
But Ra has set, too pale and lean,
As all the gods who lost their bids
To the hawk disguised as a dove.


From the space station window I
Look out at the planet I love
Now that I see it from this place
We built to orbit high above
The rest of man, first foot in space –
The sun sets, a bright, sparkling eye.

Which of these perspectives is “correct”? The scientific? The romantic? The tragic? The one that expresses fear? The one that sees a riddle? The religious one? The one from space? Each perspective is legitimate. But together they create a whole that is itself a different view than each creates separately. I am not going to claim my poem is one of lasting quality just because it takes into consideration multiple perspectives (many poems take into consideration only one perspective at a time – though many poets do take multiple perspectives into consideration in their body of work – and the poetic perspective, the perspective of any one poem on its subject(s) is itself valuable). The value of my poem is for others to judge. I included it as an example of multiple perspectives one could take on one thing, unified through and as a poem.
The divisions in contemporary studies of art and literature show the extent perspectivism has been taken to heart. Art/literary theory has been divided into New Criticism/close reading, history of art and literature, culture studies, structuralism, poststructuralism and deconstruction, genre studies, and psychoanalytical (of artist and fictional characters), philosophical, biographical, political, economic (especially Marxist), philological, rhetorical, linguistic, hermeneutical, cognitive, etc. approaches. Recently chaos theory and complex systems theory, information theory, and game theory have been applied to art and literature, contributing to the perspectives. But each perspective alone cannot tell the whole story about a work of art or literature any more than one can understand an organism by knowing about it through only one of the perspectives through which we study organisms: biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, cell biology, evolutionary biology, ethology, ecology, population biology, genetics, anatomy, physiology, etc. If we are to more fully understand a work of art or literature, we cannot abandon any perspective any more than we can understand an orga

The Point
The essay complains that the humanities are being marginalized because they do not challenge the status quo (especially within academia) and because the humanities is dominated by postmodern concerns. Both of which happen to be true. The point of my original posting was that the author was being overly pessimistic, that there are a few of us -- who are neither on the left nor on the right -- coming up in the humanities, so all hope is not lost, that there will not be an "Autumn of the Humanities," since there are more changes going on than the author is aware of. I am one of those who is part of that change. I am a member of several organizations that are working to make these fundamental changes -- so I am hardly alone in this. Of course, it is one thing to make such a claim, and another to prove it. So I decided to provide some proof of my claim. You will find at the bottom of this disussion group even more proof of my claim. In other words, my point is: the author is wrong and overly pessimistic. Perhaps things will not go his way, but postmodernism is on its last leg.

The Beginnings of a New Humanities, Ch. 1, continued
?“Just as the fact that an élite has played a vital part in the history of civilization is
distasteful to many people today, so the fact that the laws of supply and demand have a bearing on
the history of poetry may be found disconcerting by readers whose aesthetic is more romantic
than they know” (Ian Jack, The Poet and His Audience, 2). To understand art and literature
better, we have to study more economics than Marx (who is not an economist). Nor can we take
an ahistorical approach to studying literature. “When we read a poem in an anthology or in the
artificial situation required by the demands of ‘Practical Criticism’, it is reduced to the condition
of a cut flower. It we wish to understand the poem it becomes necessary to try to see it, in the
manner of an ecologist, in its natural habitat” (Jack, 3). Audience and patronage should be taken
into consideration because “the history of European music, painting and sculpture cannot be
intelligently studied without reference to the overwhelmingly important part played by the
patronage of Church and aristocracy” (Jack, 3).
By taking into consideration as many different perspectives as possible, we can come
closer to having a more objective understanding of works of art and literature. Though
“Objectivity” [ought to be] understood not as “contemplation without interest” (which is a
nonsensical absurdity), but as the ability to have one’s For and Against under control and
to engage and disengage them, so that one knows how to employ a variety of perspectives
and affective interpretations in the service of knowledge. Henceforth, my dear
philosophers, let us be on guard against the dangerous old conceptual fiction that posited a
“pure, will-less, painless, timeless knowing subject”; let us guard against the snares of such
contradictory concepts as “pure reason,” “absolute spirit,” “knowledge in itself”; these
always demand that we should think of an eye that is completely unthinkable, an eye
turned in no particular direction, in which the active and interpreting forces through which
alone seeing becomes a seeing-something, are supposed to be lacking; these always
demand of the eye an absurdity and a nonsense. There is only a perspective seeing, only a
perspective “knowing”; and the more affects we allow to speak about a thing, the more
eyes, different eyes, we can lend to the thing, the more complete will our “concept” of this
thing, our “objectivity,” be. (Nietzsche, GM III: 12)

This is the approach we should be taking when studying art and literature, a historical figure, or
an object of scientific interest. This is the approach we should be taking when studying anything.
The more perspectives we take into consideration, the better. But not everyone can do this. We
still need those who more fully develop one particular perspective on a given object of study. But
we also need those who can see these multiple perspectives and bring them together – even when
those perspectives come into conflict. In fact, it is when those perspectives come into conflict that
the philosopher and the artist becomes creative.
In addition to building upon as many perspectives as possible, one must establish a
(meta)physics, ethics, epistemology, etc. if one is to develop a theory of art and literature relevant
for humans, who exist in a field of changing objects, ideas, and perspectives. A good theory of art
and literature cannot exist in isolation, but this has not stopped many 20th Century philosophers
from trying. Martin Heidegger thought he could do away with metaphysics and develop a theory
of art and literature without it. But Heidegger attempted to do away with metaphysics by being
more metaphysical than anyone else. Which shows us what happens when one adopts a particular
metaphysics – in Heidegger’s case, making a metaphysical connection to the German language
that led to his becoming a Nazi, and in postmodern theorists, adapting his philosophy of language
to language as a whole, developing political correctness. To avoid such problems, I find it
necessary to establish a (meta)physics so my ideas on art and literature can be better understood
and seen in proper relation to my (meta)physics, ethics, and epistemology.
Such work to demonstrate unity in diversity is hardly unique to me. There have been a
number of recent works which attempt to demonstrate the unity of knowledge: Consilience by
biologist E. O. Wilson, The Blank Slate by linguist Steven Pinker, The Culture of Hope by poet
Frederick Turner, The Power of Limits by architect György Doczi, and the works of the
philosopher of time J. T. Fraser. And Nietzsche, though in great part responsible for the fracturing
of scholarship into unconnected perspectives, is interested in creating unity of perspectives. These
works (and other works by these same authors) are answers to contemporary postmodern
perspectivism. It is appropriate that Nietzsche, having indirectly created the problem of
disconnected perspectivism, acts as the answer to the problems created by 20th century thought as
a whole, and postmodern thought in particular.

The Beginnings of a New Humanities, Ch. 1, continued
Before I continue, I need to define many of the terms I will be using throughout this work.
Chaos theory. Newton and Laplace described a deterministic universe where, with enough information, the future was calculable. Romantic artists and thinkers, including the Existentialists and postmodernists, rebelled against this notion, seeing it as an affront to freedom. They replaced the deterministic with a random-chaotic universe, and the Existentialists recommended performing
gratuitous acts to rebel against the deterministic universe (but if the universe is determined, these
“gratuitous acts” would be predetermined). This is ironic since Heidegger, in “The Origin of the Work of Art,” recognized the power of structures we would later recognize as fractal:

if form is correlated with the rational and matter [content] with the irrational; if the rational is taken to be the logical and the irrational the alogical; if in addition the subject-object relation is coupled with the conceptual pair form-matter; then representation has at its command a conceptual machinery that nothing is capable of withstanding. (PLT, 27)

Nietzsche rebelled against both Newtonian-Laplacian determinism and Romantic notions of freedom by proposing instead the eternal return. In the second half of the 20th Century, chaos theory solved this problem by showing the universe is both determined and random-chaotic, ordered and disordered, determined-chaotic. To use Harriett Hawkins’ apt terminology, it is “deterministic chaos.” We see this in the images of fractal geometry (geometrical forms with fractional dimensions – which more accurately model nature), which includes the Fibonacci spiral and the Mandelbrot and Julia sets. The latter two have finite volumes contained by infinitely-long borders. These borders are infinite because they fold in on themselves, creating repetitions of the same structures, regardless of scale. Magnify a portion of a fractal’s border, and it will eventually show similar images, including images of the larger form. The borders of the Mandelbrot and Julia
sets fold in on themselves because fractals are created by strange attractors which, unlike simple attractors like gravity, which only attract, have the property of both attracting and repulsing, depending on the proximity of the border to the strange attractor(s) of the system at any given moment in time. The attractor is strange because it is unpredictable. One cannot predict when the
push or pull will occur, making the system chaotic. But pushing and pulling (bifurcation) will occur, making it predictable as a system, meaning it will resemble (but not be identical to) former states of the system. This is what makes it “deterministic chaos.” In chapter 2, I will discuss in greater detail what, exactly, strange attractors are/could be. In discussing fractals, we must keep in mind (to avoid the mistake Stephen Wolfram makes regarding fractal geometry in A New Kind of Science in understanding fractal self-similarity) that “Self-similarity comes in two flavors: exact and statistical.” Exact “displays an exact repetition of patterns at different magnifications.” In statistical, “the patterns don’t repeat exactly; instead the statistical qualities of the patterns relate. Most of nature’s patterns obey statistical self-similarity, and so do Pollock’s paintings” (Richard Taylor, “Order in Pollock’s Chaos” SciAm, December 2002, 118). And so does each and every
great work of art and literature.
Dissipative structures, self-organization, and complex systems. Dissipative structures are how real-world (versus mathematically modeled) deterministic-chaotic systems realize themselves. A dissipative structure is a system organized through, from, because of entropy. In closed systems entropy increases over time, and order becomes disorder. But open, complex systems use entropy
increase to create local decreases in entropy. Entropy increase in one place is transformed into a structure in another, which itself releases energy, as entropy. A system produces the most work by being in a Maximum Entropy Production (MEP) state (Ralph Lorenz, Science 7 Feb. 2003, 837), or dissipative structure. So long as there is an energy source to produce work, the system
retains its structure, as it transforms the energy into other forms. The sun, as it engages in fusion, increases in entropy, releasing energy as radiation and light. The light is absorbed by chlorophyll in plants to turn water and carbon dioxide into complex chemicals (sugars) and oxygen by photosynthesis. The plant uses these complex chemicals to create energy to run other systems and
cycles in the plant, to grow and maintain itself, and loses energy as carbon dioxide, oxygen, water, and heat. Energy is taken in, transformed, and released. In the transformation, structure is created. These structures have emergent properties unpredictable from their constituent parts, and can create themselves from those parts, which co-operate to create an emergent structure. A simple example of this has recently been explained in a 17 Jan 2003 article in Science – rock rings in arctic areas. If one were to look at these rock rings, the first thing one would ask is, “Who came out here and organized these rocks into rings?” In this case, the answer is, “Nobody.” Rocks in barren arctic and antarctic regions organize themselves into interconnected rings through the different-sized rocks interacting with freezing and thawing water. To get rings of rocks on a landscape, all one needs is water, rocks, and varying temperatures – enough for water to freeze and thaw. If rocks can organize themselves into rings, imagine what molecules with complex chemical and physical interactions could organize themselves into. But we do not have to imagine: life is the self-organization of certain molecules into dissipative structures. Every cell is a self-organized, self-generated structure of different interacting chemicals. Simple physics will give you rock rings. Organic chemistry will give you life. This understanding of nature as self-organizing is related to the Greek word physis, “that which generates itself,” from phyein “to produce.” We have returned to the Heraclitean view of physis in understanding the cosmos as self-creating, self-organizing. Each component of any complex system is itself a dissipative system, meaning each
level of complexity is scalarly invariant to every other level of complexity to the extent that each level is a complex system, while at the same time the complex interactions of complex systems – that continue to act as individual parts – give rise to emergent properties of the new system. Each new complex system is a magnitude more complex than its parts would suggest. This is due to the
co-operative aspects of the system. “Co-operation is considered in a broad sense as a phenomenon that can be found in all complex, self-organizing systems” (Christian Fuchs, 2). And not only is each system more complex as one goes up the hierarchy, but “Co-operation is itself an
evolving phenomenon, during the course of its evolution new higher emergent qualities and levels of co-operation arise that can’t be reduced to lower levels or qualities” (2).
Evolution. When one thinks of evolution, one generally thinks of evolutionary biology, and of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. But evolution can be applied to complex systems in general, not just biology. An ordered system can become increasingly random until it finds itself on the borderlands of order and random-chaos. Dissipative structures achieve higher levels

The Beginnings of a New Humanities, Ch. 1, continued
?Dissipative structures achieve higher levels of order by moving into and past this borderland – while retaining some random-chaos in their new, more complex order. Ilya Prigogine applies this idea to cultural evolution too – societies remain ordered over long periods of time, then go through a random-chaotic period leading to a new order. Examples include the move from the archaic pre-Socratic Greeks, through the Tragic Era, to the median Platonists and Aristotleans, and the move from Medieval Europe, through the Renaissance, to the Modern Era. This kind of evolution also occurs in the evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium. Stuart Kauffman points out that species tend to be evolutionarily stable over tens of thousands to millions of years, then suddenly change into (a) different species. Mutations accumulate at a steady rate without affecting the population, until a critical number of mutations accumulate, and the species rapidly changes into a new one, or ones. The rapidity of human evolution is a good example. Biological evolution is important because we must look to our distant genetic ancestors to understand how we became what we are. “All the genetic instructions for today’s living species are built upon the modified instructions for ancestral species” (John Gribbin & Jeremy Cherfas, 152), and this includes humans. According to J. T. Fraser a similar kind of evolution can also be applied to the experience of time. Now, while I have mentioned evolution in relation to dissipative structures, I should point out that evolution cannot explain how one can get more complexity. Evolution is simply change, and the theories of evolution explain how those changes get selected for and against. There is no such thing as “progress” in a teleological sense in evolution. If one wants an explanation of how one gets increased complexity – the definition of progress I am going to be using – one has to look instead
to dissipative structures theory and to game theory.?
Game theory. Game theory uncovers the rules of complex systems. Complex systems – including social and biological systems – are games (or forms of play), meaning they have rules. Game theory goes against certain anarchist views that insist on opposing the very concept of rules. Anarchists see rules as limiting, preventing freedom. But rules are what give us “degrees of freedom.” Nietzsche points out that rules are necessary for every form of morality and every art form has used and needed rules. “What is essential and inestimable in every morality is that it constitutes a long compulsion: to understand Stoicism or Port-Royal or Puritanism, one should recall the compulsion under which every language so far has achieved strength and freedom—the metrical compulsion of rhyme and rhythm” (BGE 188). He then goes so far as to say that “all there is or has been on earth of freedom, subtlety, boldness, dance, and masterly sureness, whether in thought itself or in government, or in rhetoric and persuasion, in the arts just as in ethics” developed only because of rules – and that the use of rules lies in nature itself, that rules are natural. It is through living by rules that we make it “worth while to live on earth; for example, virtue, art, music, dance, reason, spirituality.” Nietzsche rejects living without rules. But which rules? The tacit question asked by game theory is: “what rules make for the best games?” But it also asks: “what rules would evolve to ensure survival of the game?” – whether that game is a species or a ritual, an economic system or a work of literature. “Game theory shows how people make decisions about what to purchase and when and the rationale for seeing goals or rewards” (Barry Richmond, et al, Science 11 July 2003, 179). That is, “Our sense of which behavior to choose to reach a goal or obtain a reward is based on the perceived value of the reward, the effort needed to obtain it, and our previous experience about the likelihood of success” (179). Which raises the questions of what is the “goal” of a work of art, and what “reward” we get from that work of art, since a behavior’s existence suggests there is a goal and/or reward to be achieved/received that must have been important enough for us to have been pursuing it from prehistory to the present day. We will not act if we do not perceive that the reward we will receive is sufficient.

Action is always directed toward the future; it is essentially and necessarily always a
planning and acting for a better future. Its aim is always to render future conditions more
satisfactory than they would be without the interference of action. The uneasiness that
impels a man to act is caused by a dissatisfaction with expected future conditions as they
would probably develop if nothing were done to alter them. In any case action can
influence only the future, never the present moment that with every infinitesimal fraction
of a second sinks down into the past. Man becomes conscious of time when he plans to
convert a less satisfactory present state into a more satisfactory future state. (Mises, 100)

We would not create works of art or literature or participate in viewing/reading/listening to art/literature/music if it did not reward us. That is why l’art pour l’art is neither achievable nor desirable. But these questions raised by game theory are really the same question. Formulating it the first way makes it clear how it can be applied to art and literature. The critic uncovers the rules the artist used (consciously or not) to create the work of art or literature. Formulating it the second way shows us how game theory can help us understand the source of rules, from the Laws of Physics to the rules of grammar. It shows that more rules are needed for more complex games. Only a few are needed at the quantum level, but with each increase in complexity, more rules emerge – and are needed – until one gets to human social systems, which need thousands, if not millions, of rules. And it shows the necessity of rules to even have a game. Rules give us freedom and make us creative. Many good rules (note the word “good” here – it is not the number of rules so much as the kind, those that generate more moves, not less) give us many more degrees of freedom. This is why chess is a better, more complex game than checkers, though both are played on the same board. Game theory shows that, no matter the scale, rules are necessary – but the more complex the system, the more complex the rules that are needed.
Rhythms and Patterns. Rhythm and pattern are fundamental to understanding and finding meaning in the world. They are particular rules found at every scale, and are the very essence of fractal geometry. Patterns are spatially organized. They are arrangements of forms and/or colors; they are designs. In literature, they create the motif. They are imitations or copies. “Pattern” comes from the Old French, patron – a client would copy his patron, since the patron provided a model for the client to follow – the patron would act as the ideal, example, exemplar. There is a connection between patterns and ethics, and between beauty and ethics, since patterns are part of beauty. Rhythms, from the Greek rhein, to flow, are temporally organized. Rhythms are regular repetitions over time, typically of sound. Nonetheless, there is a connection to pattern: in a work of art a rhythm holds the parts together to create a harmonious whole through the repetition of form and/or color. Since rhyme comes from the Greek rhythmós, rhyme is a kind of rhythm. A rhythm in biology is a pattern

The Beginnings of a New Humanities, Ch. 1, continued
In the realm of behavior, rhythms are involuntary actions, whereas patterns are consciously followed. A rhythm is meant to carry us along, to help our actions flow, while patterns help create meaning by making us more conscious. In this formulation, one could see rhythm as Dionysian, while patterns would be Apollonian. A tragic work of art, using Nietzsche’s formulation, would be one that contains both rhythm and pattern.
Cognitive or evolutionary psychology. Art and literature are created by human brains, interacting in their social environments, through the human body. If we want to understand art and literature, we need to understand how our brains work, the relationship of the brain to the “mind” and the body, and how and why our brains create our behaviors. To do this we need to investigate the relationship between human behavior and that of our nearest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees). If the humanities are concerned with what make us human, we need to know what make us not-human. Simply subtracting chimpanzee behavior from human behavior will not tell us what make us uniquely human. The connection between humans and chimpanzees is far more complex. There are scalar similarities, as well as hierarchical increases in complexity, due to the way human brains are structured, compared to chimpanzee brains. What circumstances were needed to create an ape brain that made its owner create complex cultures, use grammatical language, and become technologically and artistically creative? There was an increase in complexity – any one human brain is more complex than all of (non-human) biology (which is more complex than all of chemistry, which is more complex than all of physics). Since humans (our brains and actions) are the components of human cultures, our economies, and our art and literature, each of these are themselves more complex than any one human brain. Any work of great literature has a variety of meanings, though those meanings are kept in check by the rules of the work of literature itself. So the differences in meaning between people can be quite subtle. A work of art or literature cannot mean just anything. At the same time, within the unity of meaning that is a work of art or literature, there are as many meanings as there are brains – and brain states, since one can find more and new meaning in a work, with new readings. By understanding our brains, by understanding who we are on every level, both in a reductionist and in an emergent, complex, expansionist sense, we can begin in new ways to follow the dictum at the oracle at Delphi, to know ourselves.
Information Theory. For all of these systems to work, there must be communication among the parts. To communicate, one must have a sender, who encodes, and a receiver, who decodes the information. There must be information transfer among the components.

Etymologically the term information is a noun formed from the verb “to inform,” which
was borrowed in the 15th century from the Latin word “informare,” which means ‘to give
form to,’ ‘to shape,’ or ‘to form.’ During the Renaissance the word ‘to inform’ was
synonymous to the word ‘to instruct’. (Mark Burgin 54)

To inform (inform as a verb) is to put into form, but if something is inform (inform as a noun), it is without form. Information is formless, yet it gives rise to form. We get construction through instruction. “Complex behaviors can emerge in systems in which many “atoms” – such as real atoms, economic agents, logical variables, or neurons – locally exchange messages” (Marc Mézard “Passing Messages Between Disciplines” Science 19 Sept. 2003, 1685). Information is transmitted from one component to another through the transfer of energy. “Energy” comes from the Greek, en, for “in”, and érgon, for “work” or “deed,” implying action, or doing. Energy is the amount of work, deeds, or actions that can be done, and the energy content of the universe is the work, deeds, or actions that can be done by the universe – to make matter, molecules, life, and human intelligence. What we call forces are also a kind of work, an ability to do work. Since matter is densified energy, matter can be seen as densified work, deeds, or actions. In the same way that matter contains/is energy, knowledge/data/signs/text contain/carries information. Matter is similar to knowledge/data as energy is similar to information (Burgin, 62-3). In Nonzero Robert Wright shows that density leads to complexity (he is talking about density of human population leading to greater complexity, but this applies on all scales – “The first major step toward culture is the centralization of the nervous system and the formation of a brain” (John T. Bonner, The Evolution of Culture in Animals, 38), which allows neurons to become denser), so we can see how denser energy (work) leads to the more complex product matter. “Information is what synchronizes the parts of the whole and keeps them in touch with each other as they collectively resist disruption and decay”; that is, “Information is a structured form of matter or energy whose generic function is to sustain and protect structure” (Wright, 250). Information theory says information is a kind of entropy – and entropy is the loss of energy from a system. If a system loses energy, it is giving off information about that system. We, and all other systems in the universe, pick up that energy as information, which tells us something about the state and nature of those systems. Energy taken in is first stored in memory, then turned into work. Energy given off is given off as information, which itself can be turned into work by another system. In regards to energy and its connection to a system’s rules (connecting information to game theory), Heidegger points out that

The boundary in the Greek sense does not block off; rather, being itself brought forth, it
first brings to its radiance what is present. Boundary sets free into the unconcealed; by its
contour in the Greek light the mountain stands in its towering and repose. The boundary
that fixes and consolidates is in this repose – repose in the fullness of motion – all this
holds of the work in the Greek sense of ergon; this work’s “being” is energeia. (PLT, 83)

These boundaries are rules that give energy to a system (including art and literature) to create its work. These boundaries (rules) are therefore creative, not restrictive. Heidegger also connects energy to truth when he says “Art is truth setting itself to work” (PLT, 39). And Heraclitus recognized that physis/logos, as exemplified by Apollo, “neither declares nor conceals, but gives a sign” (K. XXXIII). Physis as logos gives signs (information) about itself, neither hiding nor uncovering itself. This is why physis and logos need interpretation. Interpretation of the logos is independent of and prior to the existence of human beings. Physis carries on a discourse with itself – one way of which is through human interpretation. By understanding physis as logos, and vice versa, the way Heraclitus did, we can see how understanding comes about through the interpretation of signs. We get a connection between community and communication in the fact that logos itself is both communication, and means “collection,” a collection or gathering together of people being a community, from legein for “to collect”, “to gather.” When we read a book, we take in the contents as information. As we read, our brains convert that information into work, putting elements of the work into conceptual slots, organizing the information

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