Thinking Like A Conservative, Ctd

Sep 21 2014 @ 9:24am

Last weekend we flagged philosopher Roger Scruton’s new book, How to Be a Conservative. In an interview he expands on his distinctive style of conservatism:

Q: It struck me that the empirical side of your conservatism is also underpinned by what might be call a metaphysics of personhood, a conception of the nature of the human person.

RS: That’s absolutely true. I think it’s what conservatism—my kind of conservatism, at least—shares with liberalism: an attempt to found things ultimately on a vision of what the human person is. Of course, it is the case that conservatism as I envisage it distances itself always from abstract conceptions and tries to find the concrete reality… the good in the present.

Related to this is the emphasis you place on what you call the “first-person plural,” a phrase that occurs several times in the book.

Yes. Ultimately, political order does not generate itself. For that reason, social contract theories are suspended in mid-air, so to speak. All political order presupposes a pre-political order, a sense that people belong together. And then, of course, they might seek a contract that embodies their togetherness. But the togetherness has to be there.

With Oakeshott’s remarks about conservatism as a “disposition” in mind, I was very struck by something you say about the tone of voice in which this book is written. You say: “The case for conservatism does not have to be presented in elegiac accents.” What do you mean by that?

So much of modern political conservatism—and you see this in America, which has a quite articulate conservative movement compared with us—is phrased in elegiac terms. [It’s about] what we’ve lost—we’ve lost the traditional working-class family, the black family or whatever it might be. Now, all that is perfectly reasonable. But the most important question is what have we got, rather than what we’ve lost, and how do we keep it?

Dreher applies Scruton’s insights to his interest in the “Benedict Option” as a “way forward for religious conservatives in this rapidly changing social order”:

Read On

Quote For The Day

Sep 21 2014 @ 8:35am


“The pretensions of human cultures and civilizations are the natural consequence of a profound and ineradicable difficulty in all human spirituality. Man is mortal. That is his fate. Man pretends not to be mortal. That is his sin. Man is a creature of time and place, whose perspectives and insights are invariably conditioned by his immediate circumstances. But man is not merely the prisoner of time and place. He touches the fringes of the eternal. He is not content to be merely American man, or Chinese man, or bourgeois man, or man of the twentieth century. He wants to be man. He is not content with his truth. He seeks the truth. His memory spans the ages in order that he may transcend his age. His restless mind seeks to comprehend the meaning of all cultures so that may not be caught within the limitations of his own.

Thus man builds towers of the spirit from which he may survey larger horizons than those of his class, race and nation. This is a necessary human enterprise. Without it man could not come to his full estate. But it is also inevitable that these towers should be Towers of Babel, that they should pretend to reach higher than their real height; and should claim a finality which they cannot possess. The truth man finds and speaks is, for all of his efforts to transcend himself, still his truth. The ‘good’ which he discovers is, for all of his efforts to disassociate it from this own interest and interests, still his ‘good.’ The higher the tower is built to escape the unnecessary limitations of the human imagination, the more certain it will be to defy necessary and inevitable limitations. Thus sin corrupts the highest as well as the lowest achievements of human life. Human pride is greatest when it is based upon solid achievements; but the achievements are never great enough to to justify its pretensions. This pride is at least one aspect of what Christian orthodoxy means by ‘original sin.’ It is not so much an inherited corruption as an inevitable taint upon the spirituality of a finite creature, always enslaved to time and place, never completely enslaved and always the illusion that the measure of his emancipation is greater than it really is,” – Reinhold Niebuhr, “The Tower of Babel,” in Beyond Tragedy: Essays on the Christian Interpretation of History.

(Image: The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Awe And The Almighty, Ctd

Sep 21 2014 @ 7:29am

Adam Frank rejects the idea that awe is the “sole province of modern religion,” instead holding that it is “something that is common to all human experience” – which makes it the ideal starting point for conversations between believers and atheists:

[I]t is in response to the experience of awe that we are set on the road to science or the road to spirituality. In that way, you can just as easily ask, “Is the awe of the religious really just scientific response?” as you can ask, “Is the awe of the atheist really a religious response?” In all cases, the significance of this “oceanic feeling,” a term Sigmund Freud popularized, is that it’s pre-scientific and pre-religious. It comes before we opt for explanations of any kind … It’s easy in these discussions to split apart into our usual camps — the atheist vs. the religious. But rather than use this universal sense of awe of as point of contention, it could become a point of where the discussion gets really interesting. I’ve argued for some time that the word “sacred” is, historically, not rooted in any particular religion but refers to exactly that eruption of awe into our everyday lives.

It’s about attention not attribution.

So what if we — atheists and religious folk alike — asked ourselves about both the similarities and differences? What if we made awe the pivot point around which a new kind of respectful discussion might begin? Of course some strident folks will not want to have this kind of dialogue. They’ll want to remain behind their parapets. But for me, that only means they’re no longer interested in the subtleties of their own positions.

Recent Dish on religion and awe here.

A Short Film For Saturday

Sep 20 2014 @ 9:03pm

Beckett Mufson introduces Jeff Frost’s mesmerizing short film Circle of Abstract Ritual:

Jeff Frost has been filming Circle of Abstract Ritual since he spontaneously decided to capture a timelapse of the Anaheim riots in 2012. Since then—with help from a very successful Kickstarter—he’s been gathering strange and surreal timelapse footage of abandoned buildings, deserted deserts, fiery hillsides, and open roads. The result is a beautifully shot, highly atmospheric glimpse into the underbelly of California, composed of 300,000 still photos. Frost’s stellar cinematography characterizes the city as a dark, mysterious place, where the seemingly familiar streets and avenues harbor a sense of foreboding—under his meticulous lens, even the white, puffy clouds seem to be harbingers of an oncoming storm.

Frost elaborates on his inspiration for the film, explaining that it “began as an exploration of the idea that creation and destruction might be the same thing”:

The destruction end of that thought began in earnest when riots broke out in my neighborhood in Anaheim, California, 2012. I immediately climbed onto my landlord’s roof without asking and began recording the unfolding events. The news agencies I contacted had no idea what to do with time lapse footage of riots, which was okay with me because I had been thinking about recontextualizing news as art for some time. After that I got the bug. I chased down wildfires, walked down storm drains on the L.A. River and found abandoned houses where I could set up elaborate optical illusion paintings. The illusion part of the paintings are not an end in themselves in my work. They’re an intimation of things we can’t physically detect; a way to get an ever so slight edge on the unknowable.

A Macho Macho Woman

Sep 20 2014 @ 8:19pm

Daniel Larkin raves over Eisa Jocson‘s recent performance at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, titled “Macho Dancer,” calling it “gender-bending cognitive dissonance at its artistic best”:

Jocson learnt a specialized form of male dancing from Manila’s red light district to develop this piece. “Macho Dancing” is unlike go-go boys in New York. It is its own genre best revealed in its own terms by a quick surf on YouTube. Like any dance form, it spans a spectrum but its core elements consist of a man dancing to music, striking several masculine poses, flaunting his physique, and proceeding to strip his clothes. Some of the Filipino macho dancers don’t stand stationary like the go-go boys in US bars. It’s can often resemble a drag show on a stage, where a man is performing a form of hyper-masculinity. …

But the performance was more than mind tricks for gender studies acolytes.

Read On

Chivalry Is Stubborn

Sep 20 2014 @ 7:41pm

Joe Pinsker asks why the tradition of men paying on first dates with women persists:

A [new] survey … found that about 77 percent of people in straight relationships believe men should pay the bill on a first date. The survey, put together by the financial website NerdWallet, polled roughly 1,000 people who had been dating their partners for six months or more.

The company’s survey indicates that, in the early stages of courting, the pressure to pay falls primarily on men, but this imbalance hardly dissolves as the relationship progresses. Fifty-six percent of men foot the bill in full once they’re in an established relationship, and, even further down the line, 36 percent of men pay all of household bills, versus 14 percent of women. There’s not much in the way of historical data on the question of who pays for dates, but the findings of a 1985 poll suggest that very little has changed in the past 30 years. …

Who’s expected to pay for a date may seem trivial—some would even argue that covering the tab is a form of respecting women—but there’s reason to believe that this minor, “benevolent” form of sexism can lead to a fraught question of what the man is then owed.

Alice Robb presents new findings on why some disabled men pay for sex:

[Sociologist Kirsty] Liddiard interviewed 25 physically disabled men and women, recruited through ads on websites and in publications for people with disabilities. (The ads didn’t mention that she was studying sex work.) Of the 16 men included in the study, seven said they had at some point purchased sex from a female sex worker. (None of the women had ever paid for sex.) This is consistent with other research that suggests disabled men seek out prostitutes or “sex surrogates” at higher rates than non-disabled men.

Read On

The View From Your Window

Sep 20 2014 @ 6:39pm


Torrance Beach, California, 4.35 pm

Go Ahead, Let Netflix Autoplay

Sep 20 2014 @ 6:08pm

New research suggests there are real benefits to vegging out – so long as you don’t guilt yourself out of them:

Participants were recruited via a gaming website and through psychology and communication classes. Specifically, the participants answered questions about the previous day, including how much work or study they’d done (answers ranged from half an hour to 16 hours), how depleted they felt after work or college, how much TV they’d watched or video-gaming they’d played (this averaged around two hours), whether they viewed it as procrastination, whether they felt guilty, and how recharged they felt afterwards.

The key finding is that the more depleted people felt after work (agreeing with statements like “I felt like my willpower was gone”), the more they tended to view their TV or gaming as procrastination, the more guilt they felt, and the less likely they were to say they felt restored afterwards. The same findings applied for TV or video games.

“Rather than diminishing the beneficial potential of entertaining media,” the researchers said, “we believe that the results of this study may ultimately help to optimise the well-being outcomes of entertaining media use by extending our knowledge of … media-induced recovery and general well-being.” If the researchers are correct, then if you cut yourself some slack when you watch TV after a hard day, you’re more likely feel rejuvenated afterwards.

Cool Ad Watch

Sep 20 2014 @ 5:17pm

A stock footage company puts their archive to clever cinematic use: